Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Intern is sweet, but safe

Movie:    The Intern

Rating:  PG-13, 2 hours 1 minute

Grade:   B

In a Nutshell:   Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway are some of my faves .  Other faces you’ll enjoy seeing are the beautiful Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, and Andrew Rannells. 

While the premise of this comedy is very sweet with great comic potential, the writing doesn’t reach very far. It’s pleasant, but bland; sweet, but forgettable.  Director Nancy Meyers charms, yet plays it safe.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Everyone wants to feel wanted, needed, and relevant.
·         “You’re never wrong to do the right thing.” – Mark Twain
·         Men, always carry a handkerchief.   You’ll look classy and be a hero to someone someday.

Things I liked:
·         I loved Ben Whitaker’s (Robert De Niro) video application and the fact that he admitted that he had to call his 6 year old grandson to find out what a USB port was.  Ha ha
·         I liked the way Jules’ (Anne Hathaway) office worked.  For example, the receptionist was really personable and friendly.  I like the idea of ringing a bell and offering applause whenever someone in the office does something well.
·         Anne Hathway has such a beautiful smile.
·         Rene Russo is aging so beautifully.  I take that back….she’s not aging at all.
·         I loved how Ben saw a problem and fixed it without fanfare (when he cleans up the giant mess on the company junk desk).  Years ago I worked for a Congressman in Washington DC, hoping to make big contributions in American politics. One day, I cleaned the office kitchenette, because, frankly, it was disgusting and no one else was doing it.  While I had wanted to save the world, the thing that everyone praised me the most for was being the one who actually took the time to clean the messy kitchen area.  Ha ha   If you want to stand out, do something that others aren’t willing to do.
·         Overall, it’s a clean date movie, which is refreshing in the wake of trashy movies like Trainwreck 
-    If you enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada , Anne Hathaway's character in this movie will feel familiar, as if Andy grew up and started her own fashion business.

Things I didn’t like:
·         It’s pretty predictable.  No big plot twists or surprises.
·         Robert De Niro’s character is a little one-dimensional, with a goofy grin on his face most of the time.
-    A few amusing scenarios, but nothing laugh-out-loud funny.
·         The movie preaches about having it all.  Can you really have it all?  Years ago I attended the Governor’sConference for Women in California (fantastic event) and that very question was asked of several high-powered women on a panel.  They all chimed in about how you CAN, until finally, Meg Whitman (CEO of Ebay) honestly said it wasn’t true.  She explained that you can’t have it all….at the same time.  For example, one day you can be the best business woman in the world, but then the house work is going to slide or else you’re too exhausted at the end of the day to carry on a meaningful conversation with your spouse.  Another day you can be Super Mom, but then you won’t have time to exercise or pay your bills.  Ultimately, there are only so many hours in a day and something usually has to give.  I appreciated the honesty of that answer and it has always helped me to set more realistic expectations about my day.

Funny lines:  
·         “What did you major in?  Do you remember?”  - ATF Interviewer #1 (Wallis Currie-Wood)
·         “Grey is the new green.” – Jason (funny man Adam DeVine from Pitch Perfect )

Things to look for:
·         In the beginning of the movie when Jules rides her bicycle through the office, they had to have her ride extra slowly so the two girls could get all of their lines out during the scene.
·         Ben’s closet is pretty awesome.
·         Here is a question for you:  If you knew someone was having an affair, would you tell the spouse?  Is it your place to?  Would it help them or hurt them?

Tips for Parents:
·         Jason hands Ben a newspaper to cover up his private parts when he’s getting a massage.
·         Two F-bombs, but they’re both mouthed and so you can’t hear it.  Someone flips the bird.
·         Jules and Ben watch the movie An American in Paris , which your kids probably haven’t seen.  It’s a classic you should introduce to them!  (On second thought, was it a clip from Singin' in the Rain ?)  
·         Pre-marital relations.

Another cute intern movie featuring "older" interns is The Internship .

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2 preaches tolerance

Rating:  PG, 1 hour 29 minutes

Grade:  B

In a Nutshell:   Colorful and silly, this family animation written by Adam Sandler takes a social stand on mixed marriages and tolerance.  Voice talents include a star-studded cast:  Adam Sandler, Mel Brooks, Steve Buscemi, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Megan Mullally, Keegan Michael Key, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Chris Kattan, Dana Carvey, Rob Riggle, Nick Offerman, Jon Lovitz, and Andy Samberg.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Be yourself.  Let others be themselves too.
·         Mavis, the vampire who married a human, is on a mission for tolerance.  She says to her dad, Dracula, “Maybe you’ve let humans into your hotel, Dad, but you haven’t let them into your heart.”

Things I liked:
·         Considering it’s an Adam Sandler film, there is a surprisingly low number of body function jokes.
·         You’ll get it, even if you didn’t see the first one.
·         Dennis, the little boy, has the most adorable curly, red hair.   It served as a great gag throughout the movie as well.
·         The animation is clear, sharp, colorful and creative.
-     I admire how Adam Sandler keeps all of his old Saturday Night Live friends in work.
-     The movie reveals that Jonathan is from Santa Cruz, California, which  is the beach town near where I grew up.  Woo, beach boardwalk!

Things I didn’t like:
·         I only chuckled a few times.  Most of the laughs in the movie come from reactions to gags, pranks, and physical comedy.  The writing isn't that clever.
·         It ends with a clichéd dance party….not that it’s bad...it’s just predictable.
·         Mavis whines “Can we stop using the word ‘normal’?”  Apparently, we now live in a world where “normal” is bad and everything else is considered good.   
·         It demonstrates pretty well the entitled , younger generation that demands tolerance from everyone, yet doesn’t offer it very easily to others.

Funny lines:  
·         “From Prince of Darkness to King of Room Service…” – Vlad Dracula
·         “None of the parents better review this on Yelp.” – party performer
·         The young campers sing “Vampires will be friends forever…literally.”
·         “Michael, row your corpse ashore.” – Dracula
·         “I’m not a hippie; I’m a slacker.” – Jonathan

Things to look for:
·         Did you notice that all of the women in the movie have big hips and thighs?
·         Check out all of the things inside Blobbie in each scene he is in.

Tips for Parents:
·         Some of the monsters might be too scary for really young children.
·         Some fight scenes.
·         Some talk about “boobies”.

Missed the first one?  Check it out here:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Perfect Guy is perfectly cliche

Movie:   Perfect Guy, The

Rating: PG-13, 1 hour 40 minutes

Grade:   C-

In a Nutshell:   What is supposed to be a suspenseful revenge thriller is more of a clichéd stalker flick  that you've already seen before.

Sanaa Lathan is beautiful.  So is Morris Chestnut and Michael Ealy.  It’s a troubled trio where the villain goes from hunky date to pyscho, killer in a split second. 

Uplifting Theme:
·         “Life is like a coin.  You can spend it on anything you want, but you can only spend it once.”  - her boss’ grandfather
·          Don't date psychos.

Things I liked:
·         Sanaa has super cute, sexy dresses in a lot of her scenes.  PARENT ALERT:  They all show LOTS of cleavage.
·          I love to see a strong woman kick bad-guy butt.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Call me old-fashioned or a religious freak, but see all the trouble you can avoid if you just don't sleep with people before you're married?
-     There is quite a bit of product placement from companies, which is distracting and doesn't do anything for the story.  I'm not talking about subtle things.  For example, the camera zooms in twice so you can see the Cadillac emblem.
·         Sanaa Lathan’s character plays a successful, smart lobbyist, yet time after time, she makes dumb decisions.  I hate it when a director can’t decide if the protagonist female is a strong woman or a helpless damsel in distress.  Pick one.
·         SPOILER ALERT:  This movie felt an awful lot like this year’s No Good Deed and ends the same way.  You can read my movie review of No Good Deed to see which movie you'd rather watch.
·         Unimaginative dialogue.

Tips for guys you can learn from this movie:
1.       Bring your girlfriend’s mother some flowers.  You'll score major points.
2.       Honor your parents’ rules when you’re in their house.  There is a moment when she tries to slip into her new boyfriend's bed in the guest room at her parents’ house, and he says “Take your hussie self back in the hallway and get back into your own bed.”  She acts frustrated, but then you see a pleased look on her face.  Girls really do want a guy who shows respect.
3.       Tell her you love her.
4.        Be persistent.  She asks her mother, “How did you know Daddy was the one?”  Her mother says, “I guess it was his persistence.  He said I was the love of his life and he wouldn’t take for no for an answer.”
5.  By the way, check out my newest book!  It’s all about how women think and how to improve your relationships with them!


Stupid lines:
·         “We’ve been dating for years.” – Leah Vaughn
“It’s been a wonderful 2 years.  I don’t want to lose you.” – Dave
My note:  Ummm…..so then, why don’t you marry her already?   And girls, why on earth do you think he's ever going to want to buy the cow when he get the milk for free?
·         “Give me 3 reasons why I shouldn’t buy you a drink.” – Pick=up line in a bar.  So guys, do lines like that really work on girls?

Tips for Parents:
·         Lots of suggestive dancing, sexy kissing, bathroom stall sex, and bedroom scenes with sounds…
·         Violence, terrible deaths, and profanity.
·         A cop tells the heroine to get a shotgun, which could be the start of a conversation about the 2nd Amendment, as well as how your daughters should protect themselves.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Man From U.N.C.L.E. is stylish fun

Movie:   Man from U.N.C.L.E

PG-13, 1 hour 56 minutes

Grade:  B+

In a Nutshell:    This stylish spy film from Guy Ritchie features eye candy for all tastes, and is based on an old espionage cult TV show of the same name.  It’s American CIA agent vs. Russian KGB operative.  It’s sexy and cool and fun.

While the plot isn’t deep, the one-upsmanship gag and evolving friendship between the two spies keeps the whimsy going and the audience happy enough to forgive its faults.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Friendship, loyalty, love, patriotism.

Things I liked:
·         OK, first off…Henry Cavill.  His gorgeous, sculpted face is worth the movie ticket, just so you can stare at him for two hours.  His suits are smart too.  He plays a suave American spy…I mean, a “specialist in complicated acquisitions.”  He couldn’t get any cooler.  His Superman vs. Batman movie hits the big screen next month.  That should be interesting...

·         You’ll remember Armie Hammer who played twins on The Social Network .  (Great movie.)  In this snazzy flick, he’s a Russian spy with some cool tricks up his sleeve and an fist coming out of it.
·         Much of the film takes place in beautiful Italy, Rome in particular.  It’s one of my favorite cities in the world.  Here’s a picture from my trip there a couple of years ago with "the guys" at the Colosseum.

·         Fashion divas will get a kick out of all the retro 60’s dresses, huge dangly earrings, floppy hats, long gloves, and chunky necklaces.
·         Everything was so stylistic from the movie to the sets, cars, street scenes, and split screens.
·         Elizabeth Debicki is such a gorgeous goddess in this film.

Things I didn’t like:
·         Alicia Vikander wears a lot of really fun outfits, but her white sunglasses are just silly.
·         It’s not the action-packed spy thriller that the Jason Bourne franchise is, but it’s still fun.

Funny lines:
·         “When you hear something like a gun shot, drive.” –Napoleon Solo
·         “Loving your work, Cowboy.” – Illya Kuryakin
·         You’re not very good at this subtlety thing, are you?” – Napoleon
·         “For a special agent, you aren’t having a very special day, are you?” – Waverly (Hugh Grant)
·         “Apparently, you put someone named Count Lippi  in the hospital.” – Napoleon
“He had soft bones.” – Illya

Things to look for:
·         I love all the lamp shades in Napoleon’s hotel room in Rome.
·         British actors Henry Cavill and Jared Harris have American accents in the movie, while American Armie Hammer plays a Russian, Swedish actress Alicia Vikander speaks German and European English,  and Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki speaks Italian and British English.
·         The beginning credits give audiences a quick overview of the Cold War through images. 
·         Be sure to read the hilarious ID cards about the spies during the rolling credits at the end.
       Yep, it looks like there will be a sequel.

Tips for Parents:
·         Napoleon is a playa.  You see the silhouette of a mostly naked woman getting out of bed with him.
·         As you can imagine in a spy movie, there is a high body count, lots of fight scenes, explosions, car chases, torture devices, and a man is on fire.
       Some profanity.

Want to learn more about the Man from UNCLE TV series? Check these out:


While you're on it, you'll love this:


Friday, September 25, 2015

90 Minutes in Heaven spends more time on pain than miracles

Rating: PG-13, 2 hours 1 minute

Grade:    C

In a Nutshell:  I wanted to see heaven, not a hospital room.  This sluggish film of faith takes a lot longer than 90 minutes to finally reveal what Don Piper saw when he “died” in a car accident.  The majority of the true story  features the pain and suffering Don experienced after the crash, making the film kind of a pain to watch.  I was eager to get to Don’s “sacred secret”, which turned out to be a disappointing payoff for sitting through all the boring, dreary scenes about pain.

That being said, the Christian film isn't without merit. There are some inspiring messages that will leave you with increased faith and hope.

Uplifting Theme:
·         In the words of Don Piper: “God still answers prayers.  God still performs miracles.  Heaven is real.”
·         “Choose to be better, not bitter.”  - Don Piper
·         “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” – Don Piper
·         People care and want to serve.   They are blessed through their service, so never deny someone that opportunity to love and grow.  The people who surround Don are true heroes in this film.
·         Wear your seat belt.
·         God answers prayers.

Things I liked:
·         I love true stories that build faith and inspire goodness.  Christian audiences have proved that they want them and are willing to pay for them.  Keep ‘em coming.
·         Country music star Dwight Yoakam branched out into acting in the 1990’s and plays Cecil Beaumont, a slimy attorney.
·         I always like seeing the real person who movies are about.  You get to watch the real Don Piper give part of a sermon at the end of the film when he triumphantly states “I have been beaten up, but not beaten.”
·         You will learn about the Ilizarov apparatus, which is a fixation device used to connect bones back together.  It’s truly a medical miracle, but looks extremely painful.    
·         Don’s family has a little black and white Papillon named Butterfly.  (Papillon means butterfly in French.)   I have a little black and white Papillon too!  Here’s a picture of mine.  His name is Blaze.  By the way, a “blaze” is what you call the stripe on a horse’s muzzle (nose).

·         The goal of the movie is to help non-believers have faith in an after-life.  Unfortunately, the movie preaches to the choir.
     - I was very touched by the preacher who prayed over Don's dead body.  
     - There were quite a few miracles that occurred during Don's car accident. I loved that Don thanked the preacher for holding his hand, only to learn that it wasn't the preacher who held it...
         I thought it was sweet that the first thing Don did when he returned to his body was sing.

Things I didn’t like:
·         I think Kate Bosworth is gorgeous, but her acting felt stiff and forced in this film.  She goes to bed with lipstick on and doesn’t dig deep enough to show sincere emotion.  Look closely and you’ll notice that her left eye is blue and her right eye is hazel brown!
·         Most people may not recognize Hayden Christensen, who plays Don Piper.  Director George Lucas rocked his world when he made Hayden Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith .  Hayden is thinner and mostly horizontal in this film.  Interestingly enough, Hayden portrays both Anakin and Don as mopey.
·         The acting isn’t particularly good.
·         The screen would show a bright light and I would get excited, thinking I was finally going to see heaven, but it would just be a transition from one boring scene into another. 
·         The music was super sappy throughout the entire film.  Lee Ann Womack’s hit song I Hope You Dance should have helped a dance scene in the movie become a climactic moment, but the song was cut off and the scene never had time to build into much.  What could have brought the audience to tears came resulted in a ho-hum scene without much energy.
·         Cranky nurses should really be fired and forced to find another line of work.
·         I thought it was super sad that Don’s mother couldn’t pull herself together enough to visit her son in the hospital. 
·         I wish Christian movies were awesome.  As a whole, they’re getting better and always share a message I’d like everyone to hear, but this one just wasn’t up to par.

Interesting lines:
·         “You know, you did something Baptist preachers never do…finish a speech early.” –Jay B. Perkins (played by Fred Dalton Thompson)
·         “We’re going to get through this together as a family.  That’s what families do.” – Eva’s dad (played by David Clyde Carr)
·         “David was my best friend and, like me, an ordained minister.  And by far the most loving human being I’ve ever known.” – Don    -   What a wonderful thing to say about another person.   I hope that someone will be able to say that about me some day.
·         “You know what they say about faith?  You can have hope without faith, but you can’t have faith without hope.”  - Jay Perkins  
·         “Sometimes what inspires you isn’t what you end up doing.” – Jay Perkins

Tips for Parents:
·         The car crash scene is intense and you see Don in a bloody state, which might be frightening for some children.  In fact, you see the car crash scene over and over again.
·         Most children will be bored and tired of waiting for the “good stuff.”

Christian movies to hit the big screen recently...see my movie reviews for them by typing their names in the search bar:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everest features stunning cinematography

Movie  Everest

Rating: PG-13, 2 hours 1 minutes

Grade:   B

In a Nutshell:    This is an impressive movie to watch on IMAX and in 3D.  The cinematography and sound design will surely win some awards.   While the dialogue isn’t stellar, the cast is.  This true story is a memorial to all of those who climb mountains in their life, whether literally or figuratively.

The movie begins with some sobering information: “Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first mountain climbers to get to the top of Mount Everest.  During the next 40 years, mountain climbers attempted the same feat.  One in every four died.”   It’s not called the Death Zone for nothing. 

Uplifting Theme:
·         Friendship, loyalty, determination, hope.
·         Why climb Everest?  As the characters in the movie say, “Because it’s there!”  Dream the impossible.

Things I liked:
·         You get to see stunning images of Mount Everest and beautiful Nepal.  Some of the shooting was also done in the gorgeous Italian Alps.
·         The film does a good job of explaining the risks as the movie goes along, usually by way of a trail guide or the doctor who is teaching the climbers.
·         The cast is very good: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin.  I’ve loved Robin Wright ever since I first saw her in The Princess Bride .  She doesn’t quite look herself in this film, but it’s always a pleasure to see her.  Sam Worthington from Avatar gets to use his real Australian accent in the flick.  You get to hear Kiera Knightly with a New Zealand accent.
·         Every movie I’ve ever seen about Mount Everest includes terrible deaths, so this one wasn’t any different.  As beautiful as Mount Everest is, I have absolutely no desire to summit.  I am kind of fond of breathing.  Not on the old Bucket List.  Nope.  But I admit I’m fascinated with people who do want to climb it.  Director Baltasar Kormakur does a good job showing that it’s a different breed of person who dreams of Everest.

Things I didn’t like:
·         There are some stormy night scenes where it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
·         You pretty much know people are going to die, so the only surprise is who.
·         It’s a little bit hard to keep the characters straight once they’re covered in snow and dying off.  I would have liked more character development so that I could cry when they died.  I mean, I was sad, just not heart-broken, ya know?
·         It’s hard to imagine how the climbers must have felt.  They should blast the air conditioning in the theaters that play this movie so that you start to shiver.  Right?!

Interesting lines:
·         “It’s one thing to make it on top, but you pay me to bring you down safely.  Remember that.” – Rob Hall (played by Jason Clarke)
·         “We don’t need competition between the people.  There is already competition with the mountain.  The last word always belongs to the mountain.” – Ed Viesturs (played by Clive Standen)
·         “It’s not the altitude, it’s the attitude.” –  Doug Hansen (played by John Hawkes)

Tips for Parents:
·         Young children may get bored.
·         I’m assuming the facts mentioned in the film about Everest are true.   Nature lovers of all ages will be mesmerized by the beauty.
·         Some profanity, dead bodies, intense peril.

Want to see the original Everest with the awesome Liam Neeson? Check this out!


Want to learn more about Mount Everest?  You can start with these:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Maze Runner sequel surprises with zombies

Grade: B

Rating:  PG-13, 2 hours 9 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Zombies?  I didn’t know this movie had zombies!  The trailers did a great job of not revealing the story line and fun surprises in this sequel to the Maze Runner series.  It’s action-packed and leaves you wondering who is really on the right side. 

Although my friend, James Dashner, wrote the book that these films are based on, I embarrassingly admit that I’ve never read them.   Apparently, the sequel veers from the original source material quite a bit.  He and I did a book signing together many years ago when we were both nobodies.  While he has made it big time, I’m still a nobody.  (weak grin)  Here is a picture of us when we both were speakers at the LDStorymakers Conference several years ago.  I’m so happy for him and his success!

To see my movie review of the first Maze Runner movie, click here.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Run!
·         Friendship, loyalty, trust.

Things I liked:
·         The special effects were very good.  I’d like to see a director make a riveting movie out of one of my non-fiction books.  Ha ha
·         The cast does a great job.
·         The scale and scope are much larger than the first Maze Runner.
-     The sets, green screens, and backdrops are impressive.

Things I didn’t like:
·         There was way too much running around in the dark.  I had a hard time seeing what was going on, even on the big screen! 
·         The cliff-hanger at the end was pretty predictable.  Even some of the lines were predictable.  It was still entertaining though.
·         This is not a stand-alone film.  If you haven’t seen the first movie, you’ll be lost.
-     This film feels like it’s the bridge between two better films.
·         There weren’t any memorable funny lines.
·         My teenage son described the movie as “A bunch of Abercrombie & Fitch models running around in the desert.”  Kinda true.
·         You don’t learn much more about these teenagers, nor what’s really going on.  The plot wasn’t as deep as I had hoped.  One of the best questions dystopian movies should ask is what happens when civilization crumbles.  What morality is left?  We're still waiting for those answers after the final credits roll.
·         The film isn’t available on IMAX and PLF screens this time around, like the first one was.  The really big screens are being reserved in theaters for the opening weekend of the remake of Everest .

Things to look for:
·         You’ll miss it if you blink, but Teresa (played by Kaya Scodelario) puts a blanket over the broken glass when Thomas throws a chair through a window.   That’s a good emergency preparedness tip to remember in a survival situation!  It’s also what you should do if you’re trying to get over a jagged fence or barbed wire fence.
-      See if you can count how many times the teens pose.  It's almost as if every screen shot could be turned into a movie poster for tween fans.

Tips for Parents:
·         Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) flips the bird.
·         The zombies that chase the kids are pretty scary because they run FAST and climb anything, unlike the ones in the hit TV show The Walking Dead: Season 1 .
·         Some profanity, an icky vomit moment,  and a high body count, sometimes bloody.
·         Kids will love it because it features kids outsmarting adults. 
·         Thomas and Brenda spend some time in a dystopian kind of den of iniquity with a bunch of druggies and boozers.

To get prepared for the sequel, start with these:


 If you can't get enough, check out the prequel and more!