Sunday, May 31, 2015

San Andreas rocks the box office

Movie:    San Andreas [HD]

PG-13, 1 hour 54 minutes

Grade:  Special effects = A, Plot = C,  Dialogue = C

In a Nutshell:   There are a lot of moving rocks in this movie, but the best one is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who is so big and strong that he could probably pull California’s tectonic plates together single-handedly.  Seriously, the guy is gigantic and just doggone fun to watch.  You get to see him rip a door right off of a car, as well as a bunch of other life-saving stunts. 

His box office draw is also huge: this film took in $53.2 million dollars opening weekend, completely crushing the competition.

Pay a little extra to see this one in 3D.  The CGI team was incredible.  I remember when the 1974 Earthquake movie came to a new theater near my house when I was a little girl.  The theater boasted that you could feel the shaking.  I could and was immediately addicted to disaster movies.  If you want that same experience, upgrade to IMAX.  If you’d rather save money, have your buddy sit next to you and bump into you every 3 minutes while you watch this silly popcorn flick.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Be prepared!   Paul Giamatti plays a professor at Cal Tech who is researching earthquakes.  He tells his class “It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN.”  Later he laments “No one listens to us until the ground shakes.”  Sadly, that’s true.  You need to start preparing now.  It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark…
·         SPOILER ALERT:  There is a moment at the end of the movie where you see an American flag unfurl to show off the great American spirit and resolve a la post-9/11.  One character asks “So, what now?”  Another person states “Now we rebuild.”   
·         We have to help each other.  In the movie, in order to survive, the characters have to move to higher ground.  That’s not just physically-speaking.  We need to be better and kinder to one another.

Things I liked:
·         I get a kick out of Paul Giamatti, who consistently gives us good performances.  I’m currently watching his mini-series John Adams and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about one of America’s Founding Fathers and presidents.
·         The beautiful Alexandra Daddario plays Blake, The Rock’s daughter and the eye candy for the film.  Her acting and looks are more mature than when we last saw her in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief .
·         Did you notice the purple trees surrounding the buildings at California Institute of Technology?  They must have taken those aerial shots over the campus last spring when the Jacaranda trees were in bloom.  Beautiful. Why would I even notice that?  Hey, I live in the desert in Las Vegas and notice anything that blooms!
     Notice the heart necklace floating in water at the very beginning.  It’s important.
·         If you’re a disaster freak, you get to see earthquakes, fires, and even a Tsunami.  Sorry, no plagues or pestilence.
·         I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it was fun to see some of my old stomping grounds, although I wasn’t happy to see most of them destroyed!  Here’s a picture I took of Coit Tower when I visited there with my parents a couple of years ago.  It’s featured as one of the landmarks in the movie.   

Things I didn’t like:
·         Product placement in movies always kind of annoys me.  I had to snicker when every single student in Lawrence’s college classroom  owned a Mac.
·         Super dramatic music.  The movie takes itself very seriously.
·         I seriously wanted to shave Paul Giamatti’s scraggly beard.  Hey, I saw this movie in IMAX, so those fly-away facial hairs were all over the place!
·         SPOILER ALERT:  It’s so cliché to make the rich guy a complete jerk.
·         I have to admit that some of the material was pretty ridiculous.

Funny lines:
·         “It’s been awhile since I got you to 2nd base.” – Ray says to Emma while they’re standing in San Francisco’s famous AT&T baseball stadium
·         “Elgin, if you move any faster, you’re going to break a hip.” – Ray
·         “Contrary to popular belief, scientists don’t know everything.”  - Lawrence
·         “I can’t wait to be 20.” – Ollie,  as he watches his big brother kiss a beautiful girl
·         “Who wants an A in an independent study class I’m starting: “how to hack media outlets!”?  - Lawrence
·         “If you’re not already dead, I’m going to F-n kill you!” – Emma (Carla Gugino)

Tips for Parents:
·         The PG-13 rating is for intense disaster sequences, a pretty high body count, and, as you can imagine, a lot of people swearing as they try to survive the death and destruction.  Most of the profanity is when people say “OMG” when they realize how serious a situation is, but Emma (the mom) gets the honor of dropping the only F-bomb in the movie because she’s ticked off that someone hurt her daughter.  Hey, you don’t mess with mama bears.
·         The college professor gives you a short history of the biggest earthquakes in the history of the world at the beginning of the movie.  Did you know the largest earthquake in North America was a gigantic 9.1 in Alaska?

Prepper tips based on this movie:
·         Be married to a hulk of a man who has easy access to a helicopter to save you.
·         “You need to drop, cover, and hold on because your life is going to depend on it.”  - Lawrence
·         Learn how to hotwire a car
·         You need a plan
·         “Every city has a tactical channel.”  - Blake   (Get yourself a ham radio or GMRS radio so you can communicate with your loved ones when the cell towers are down.)
·         Learn to run fast.  Surviving a disaster involves lots of running.
·         Learn CPR and First Aid.  When your loved ones are hurt, you’re going to wish you knew how to help them.
·         Don’t wear flip flops before disaster strikes.  Ha ha  (Both leading ladies are conveniently wearing boots.)
·         Don’t text and drive.
·         Know what the threats are to the city in which you live.  I live in Las Vegas where people were completely shocked when we had a 4.8 earthquake last weekend.  The city sits on SEVERAL fault lines!  If you want to see where the most recent earthquakes hit in the world TODAY, go to      SPOILER ALERT: Hoover Dam is completely destroyed in the movie, which is pretty spectacular to watch, but not something I hope ever happens.  I just drove across that amazing bridge last weekend on my way to visit my son in Arizona!  It’s so high and scary!  It snapped like a toothpick in about 2 seconds in the movie after a 7.1 earthquake.  EEK!  I hope it takes a much bigger earthquake than that to crumble the surrounding area.  Fun fact: Alexandra Daddario pronounces the state of Nevada incorrectly in the movie….it’s not Nevoda people!
·         Know how to commandeer an airplane and boat.
·         Keep a map of your city on you.  Nope, the cell phone navigator probably won’t work.

·         For more great emergency preparedness tips, visit my friend’s preparedness web site at

Can't get enough of the moving and shaking?  Try some of these earthquake movies:

Tourists in England

Hi Movie Review Maven fans!

I was just looking at some statistics for this site and noticed that I have thousands of readers who live in the United Kingdom.  That's awesome!

I'm especially excited because I'm going to be traveling with my family in England, Scotland, and Wales this summer! 

I would love to hear your tips on where I should go, what I should eat, and all the fun things I should do in your beautiful land!

Please put your tourist advice in the comment box below!


Trina Boice

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Survivor is a mash-up of other movies that did it better

Movie:    Survivor

PG-13, 1 hour 36 minutes

Grade:  C

In a Nutshell:   Not particularly great, nor terrible, this international thriller is a mash-up of movies you probably really enjoyed, like: The Bourne Identity , Salt , and The Fugitive .  I think it’s safe to say we love watching Milla Jovovich play a tough girl, preferably with a Russian accent.  In this action flick, however, she plays an American Foreign Service Officer who gets mixed up in a terrorist plot that makes her look guilty.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t have Jason Bourne’s cool skills or the super-babe, kick-butt grit that her character has in the Resident Evil franchise. 

By the way, if YOU want to learn some of those skills, my son teaches them in a class you probably learned about in the TV show "Shark Tank" or "Rachel Ray".  Check out his classes at

Still, the movie is mildly entertaining, but only worth renting on DVD when it comes out if there’s nothing better on.  The movie informs us that since 9/11, American Law Enforcement has stopped 53 terrorist attacks in New York alone. 

Uplifting Theme:
·         A job is where you go to work to make money.  A career is a lifetime passion where you get paid to make a difference in the world.
·         Don’t mess with America.

Things I liked:
·         The cast is filled with great names that should make for a great movie: Dylan McDermott, Milla Jovovich, Angela Bassett, Pierce Brosnan, Robert Forester.  Unfortunately, most of their talents are wasted on a script that doesn’t truly let them blossom.
·         Great aerial shots of London and New York.
·         It was kind of interesting to learn a little bit more about how they screen travelers in and out of countries.

Things I didn’t like:
·         It’s pretty predictable with nothing very original to add to the “I’m not guilty so I better hide and figure out what’s really going on” genre.
·         Pierce Brosnon looks old and tired.  In the movie, Sam Parker (played by the handsome Dylan McDermott) explains “He’s had so much reconstructive surgery, no one knows the he## what he looks like.”  Ha ha
·         It’s a little slow-moving in the beginning.
·         For the “world’s deadliest assassin”, Nash (Pierce Brosnan) sure misses a lot of his shots.
·         It’s always New York City….
·         “I have been waiting 10 years for this moment to see the Americans pay for what they have done.”  - bad guy (NO spoiler alert)   Pretty cliché, right?
·         I never saw a trailer or billboards or poster for this movie before opening day.  It has had such little advertisement that it will probably come and go without most people even noticing.
      It's kind of annoying how Angela Bassett's character continuously makes the wrong decision EVERY time. 

·         Funny lines:
·         “Geez, you look how I feel.” –  Sally (played by Frances de la Tour)  We most recently saw her play the giant in Into the Woods and a visiting headmistress in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Interesting lines:
·         “Fortunes are made when there’s blood on the streets.” – Nash

Tips for Parents:
·         Pierce Brosnan is the one to utter the only F-bomb in the movie.  There are a few other  moments of profanity, most often coming out of his mouth.

·         There is violence and a body count.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Was a remake of Poltergeist really necessary?

Movie:   Poltergeist

PG-13, 1 hour 33 minutes

Grade:  C

In a Nutshell:    Ok, let me first say that I don't like watching scary movies, but I had requests to review this you better appreciate my sacrifice!

Well, there’s no surprise here if you saw the original Poltergeist from 1982, not to mention Poltergeist II: The Other Side in 1986 and Poltergeist III in 1988.   In fact, it doesn't really add anything to the prior movies. This remake doesn’t exactly shed new light (pun intended) on the old story, but if you’re looking for a fun scream flick, you’ll enjoy the ride enough, complete with creepy clowns, things that jump out, gross skeletons, menacing drills, and scary music.

A more interesting movie might have been a look at the real world deaths of former cast members that have resulted in a belief in the Poltergeist movie “curse”.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Do your due diligence before purchasing real estate.  Ha ha
·         Don’t keep a box full of creepy dolls.

Things I liked:
·         Jared Harris (Carrigan) seems to be in all the creepy movies lately.   He does a good job, as does the rest of the cast: Sam Rockwell (Eric Bowen), Rosemarie DeWitt (Amy Bowen), Kyle Catlett (Griffin Bowen), and adorable Kennedi Clements (Maddie Bowen).

Things I didn’t like:
·         I hate it when little kids swear, imitating their foul-mouthed parents.  NOT cute.
·         Griffin asks: "Why would someone collect a box of clowns?"  Great question.   
·         The kids are constantly bickering with each other.  The teenage daughter, Kendra, (Saxon Sarbino) is so annoying that you don’t care if a poltergeist gets her.
·         What this family needs are some nosy neighbors who check in long before the crazy poltergeists destroy everything.
-      Nothing very original here.  Why the remake then?

Amusing lines:
·         “What if it doesn’t work?” – Amy
“It’s going to work.” – Eric
“This better work!” – Eric to Carrigan
·         “I hope we never see you again.” – Eric
“I don’t know why they always say that.” – Dr. Claire Powell
·         We were young and stupid.” – Carrigan
“Only one of us was stupid.” – Claire
·         “I have special powers, you know.” – Carrigan
“They’re not that special.” – Claire
·         “Is everything ok?” – Claire
“If it were, I wouldn’t be here.” – Carrigan

Interesting lines:
·         “I’m scared.” – Griffin
“Me too.  I feel a little braver though.” - Eric

Tips for Parents:  Young children will definitely be frightened by the scary skeletons and creepy events.  The movie is better suited for teens who want to scream during a sleepover.

Can't get enough Poltergeist ? Check these out:


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tomorrowland speaks to dreamers

Movie:   Tomorrowland  

PG, 1 hour 47 minutes

Grade:  A-

In a Nutshell:  Are you a dreamer?  If so, this Disney film will capture your heart.  Kids will love the non-stop action and futuristic ideas that feel more like believable fantasy than Sci-Fi. Parents will feel young again, but may become annoyed with the preaching about climate change.  It’s kind of a techno-thriller for tweens with a new twist on the ever-popular dystopian genre.

I fell in love with Director Brad Bird’s talent during his animated hit The Incredibles .   While Brad Bird provides the lighthearted fun he is great at, the story gets tangled up by Lost: The Complete Seasons 1-5 writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof.  I think the writers of Lost got lost in their storytelling and that happens a little bit here.

During Spring Break this year, I took the fam to Disneyland.  It happened to be the last day Tommorrowland was to be opened before its reconstruction.  When I was a little girl, it featured an exhibit of what houses would look like in the future.  Up until a couple of months ago, it spotlighted Marvel's The Avengers superheroes and interactive video games mostly.  I can’t wait to see what the new Tomorrowland will highlight to spark our imaginations.  There is a lot from the movie that could easily end up as an awesome new ride…

In the words of Frank, “You wanted to see Tomorrowland…here it comes!”

Uplifting Theme:
·         “There are two wolves and they are always fighting.  One is darkness and despair.  The other is light and hope.  The question is: "Which wolf wins?”   - Casey
“The one you feed.”   - Nate Newton
·         Issues covered in the film include domestic terrorism, industrial sabotage, crime, death, climate change, unemployment, and hope.

Things I liked:
·         Visually, there are some intriguing things to look at and dream about.
·         The musical score is beautiful and feels like Disney magic.
·         What kid doesn’t want to ride in a jet pack?  Scratch that….what adult wouldn’t want to either?  When young Frank is asked why he built a jet pack, he says “If I was walking down the street and I saw some kid with a jet pack fly over me, I’d believe anything’s possible.  I’d be inspired.  Doesn’t that make the world a better place?”  So true!
·         I thought George Clooney (Frank), Hugh Laurie (David Nix), the adorable Raffey Cassidy (Athena), the lovely Brittany Robertson (Casey) and Thomas Robinson (young Frank Walker) all did a terrific job with their characters.
·         In a flood (pun intended) of dystopian movies that preach about the horrible future that awaits us because of our greed, I like that Casey says “I get things are bad.  But what are we doing to fix it?”  Great question.
·         I loved the hopeful ending. 
·         I love both Brittany's and Raffey's gorgeous, long hair.
·         Kids will get a kick out of all the gadets, gizmos, and machines.
·         Super cool multi-layered swimming pools in Tomorrowland!  I love swimming pools somuch that I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to them.
·         Did you notice the Hans Solo in carbonite tribute?
-     I thought it was interesting that they talked about how society is currently obsessed with the dystopian genre and various versions of the apocalypse to the point that we embrace and even celebrate the impending doom with movies, TV shows, books and music.  It's kind of true that we're "feeding that wolf."

Things I didn’t like:                               
·         It’s an infomercial for Disneyland, as well as Coke, and Apple.
·         David Nix’s pants looked like an unimaginative costume designer got lazy.

Funny lines:
·         “Frank, it’s not personal.  It’s just programming.”  - Athena
·         “This is a story about the future and the future can be scary.” – Frank
·         “Frank, you want to know why you could never make me laugh?” – Athena
“Why?” – Frank
“Because you’re not funny.” – Athena
·         “Do I have to explain everything?  Can’t you just be amazed and move on?”  - Frank

Inspiring lines:
·         “Did you make this yourself?  - Athena
·         “Yeah”  -
·         Why?”  - Athena
“I guess I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it for me.” – Frank
·         “It’s hard to have ideas and give up.”  - Casey
“But you won’t give up, right?” – Casey's brother
“Never” – Casey
·         “Which way do you want to go: backwards or forwards?” – Athena
·         Even the teeniest of actions can change the future.” – Casey

Interesting lines:
·         “You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation.  Explain that one.” – David Nix

Tips for Parents:
·         There is a lot of violence and fighting that results in multiple forms of death: vaporization, crushing, dismembering, implied genocide, etc.
·         Parents are finding that their children are asking thought-provoking questions about fairly deep subjects after the movie.  Yay!
·         Very young children may be frightened by the menacing robots with creepy faces.
·         There is a discussion of tachyon particles to explain some of the science behind the technology in the future.  Your kids may be surprised to learn they’re real.   
·         It’s a great opportunity to introduce your kids to some of history’s great inventors which are mentioned: Tesla, Verne, Edison, Eiffel 


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Age of Adaline moves slower than her years

Movie:   The Age of Adaline

PG-13, 1 hour 49 minutes

Grade:  B

In a Nutshell:   So, staying young and gorgeous forever is a problem?  It's hard to feel very sorry for the protagonist in this story. I suppose this movie is about every woman's true fantasy: to stay 29 forever while man after man falls in love with you. It’s kind of embarrassing how predictable chick flicks can be.  Still, we women love them.

Uplifting Theme:
* Don't just live each day, but live your life.  
* Create the life you really want to live.
* Life passes by quickly; enjoy every minute.

Things I liked:
·         First of all, Gossip Girl star Blake Lively is gorgeous.  Did you know she’s married to the handsome Ryan Reynolds?  This age-less  movie doesn’t have the charm that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had, but it was still fun to just watch Blake Lively do anything.
·         The narrator gives a quasi-scientific explanation of why Adaline survived the car crash.  It's related in such a serious, magical tone, but it is mostly amusing to see how the writers decided to try to make the story believable.
·         Ah, Harrison Ford.  I love pretty much anything he’s in.  This film takes a better, dramatic turn when he shows up in it.
·         I’m glad to see that Adaline spent some of her many years learning languages.  It’s fun to imagine having that much time to develop talents, skills, and knowledge.  
*    There is some humor, but not enough to include my regular section entitled "Funny Lines".

Things I didn’t like:
·         I’ve always thought one of the worst ways to die would be to crash into a cold lake.  Of course, if that resulted in my looking like Blake Lively and never dying, I wouldn’t be so afraid of it.
·         The movie is pretty slow-moving…kind of like Adaline's aging.
·         Blake's  surname seems ironic, given her almost stone-faced performance.  (Beautiful stone though)
*    There could have been so much more depth to Adaline because of all her life experiences, but we only get to see an evolving wardrobe and hairstyles, mixed with a little sadness and cynicism.
*    SPOILER ALERT: I'm imagining the future, awkward family dinner conversations as the movie ends...

Interesting lines:
·         “It’s better this way.” – Adeline
“No, it’s not.” – Ellis  (the scruffy Michiel Huisman)
·         “Tell me something I can hold on to forever and ever and not let go.” – Adeline
“Let go.” – Ellis
·         “If I had your looks and energy, I’d fall in love tomorrow!” – Flemming (the lovely Ellen Burstyn)
·         “She was an amazing woman.” – William
“It runs in the family.” – Ellis

Tips for Parents:  
* There is a pre-marital sexual encounter.
* You get to see Michiel Huisman shirtless.  Oh....clears throat...there is a scene where an actor isn't wearing a shirt.
* Teenage girls will think the film is romantic, but young children will be pretty bored.

If you love time-travel themes in movies like I do, you'll probably like these movies too:


Can't get enough of Blake Lively?  See her in:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 is A Ca-ffensive fun

Movie:   Pitch Perfect 2

GP-13, 1 hour 54 minutes

Grade:  B

In a Nutshell:   If you’re easily offended, this film is not for you. Every group that exists is a target for distasteful jokes by writer Kay Cannon in this college party flick. Jokes fly as fast and hard as if they were being shot out of one of those T-shirt guns at a football rally, some landing better than others.

Directed and produced by Elizabeth Banks, the singing sequel isn’t as good as the first one, but if you loved the first Pitch Perfect like I did, you’ll still be entertained and have a few new mash-ups and choreo steps to try on your own after the final credits roll.
While most of the movie is a bit messy, the ending is sweet and inspiring, leaving us with that sing-a-long feeling like the original movie did.  By the way, keep watching after the rolling credits for a funny scene with Bumper.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Overcome your fears.
·         Everyone has a voice.  Everyone is an original.  Find your unique sound and sing/live it.

Things I liked:
·         There is some pretty good beatboxing.
·         How fun would that be to spend a $42,000 gift card at Dave & Busters?  We use to take the fam         there when we lived in San Diego.
·         I love Emily’s long, gorgeous hair.  Hailee Steinfeld  has grown into a beautiful young woman.          Where have you seen her before?  True Grit and Ender's Game .
·         It was fun to hear Katey Sagal sing.
·         The riff-off scene in the eccentric, rich guy’s basement is a lot of fun.  More please.
·         I loved how Beca could only think of positive things to say about her German nemesis, Valkyrie        (the flawless Birgitte hjort Sorensen).
·         Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has the best lines.  She also has some of the worst lines.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Lots of slow-motion montages of the Bellas dancing, having a pillow fight, and doing team building activities at a camp retreat. Were they looking for filler material?
·         SPOILER ALERT: There are two odd, creepy, romantic scenes between Fat Amy and Bumper.   I would have liked to see Beca and Jesse sing a duet instead.
·         There are some musical misfires (songs about butts, for example), but overall the music is good. Thankfully, the finale is exactly what we hoped it would be.
·         Beca’s personality vacillates from being the cynical, "alternative" goth she was in the first movie and a more optimistic, happy college girl living her dream.  We all love hearing Anna Kendrick sing again.  How about a solo?  By the way, have you seen her in the musical movie "The Last Five Years"?  She's fantastic in it.
·         Some of the characters we fell in love with in the first movie are in this sequel, but they don’t get developed any further.   If you haven’t seen the first movie, you’ll miss some of the charms of the original characters that get a little lost in this one.

Did you know?
·         The real A Capella group that won Season 3 of The Sing-Off on NBC, Pentataonix, appears in the movie as a group representing Canada in the World Championship.  In real life, they won a Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. They’re A Camazing.  Check out their YouTubeChannel, which is the 12 most subscribed-to music channel.
·         The German guy on Das Sound Machine  A Capella team (Flula Borg)  has a funny YouTube channel I discovered a couple of years ago.  Here’s a clip I show my English language students:

Cameo performances in the movie include Snoop Dog, President Obama and First Lady Michelle, Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhymes, and Good Morning America's Robin Roberts.

Producer Max Handelman chose an all male A Capella group from his Alma Mater, the University of Pennsylvania, to perform in the movie as one of the groups in the World Championship.

Funny lines:
·         “Don’t blame yourself.  You’re a ginger; that’s punishment enough.” – Fat Amy
·         “You’re the most talented person I know, and I’ve met three of The Wiggles.” – Fat Amy
·         “Even your sweat smells like cinnamon.” – Beca
·         “We need to scout those Deutschbags.” – Fat Amy about Das Sound Machine
·         “I don’t understand camping.  We’re voluntarily living like dogs.” -  Flo  (Chrissie Fit)

Tips for Parents:
·         Like the first film, there is a lot of crude language and sexual innuendos.
·         Tweens may not understand certain pop-culture references, such as the hate letter supposedly written by Sonia Sotomayor (who is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States) and all of the immigration jokes aimed at Flo, the Guatamalan. 

·         A kalimba is mentioned.  Want to see what one looks like?

Must-haves for Pitch Perfect fans: