Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman vs. Superman features several epic battles

Movie Title:  Batman vs. Superman

Grade:          B-

Rating:  PG-13, 2 hours 31 minutes

In a Nutshell:    When I saw the first trailer for this superhero movie almost a year ago, I thought it was a dumb idea.  I mean, Superman could easily kick Batman’s butt, right?  No contest.  No film needed. The next trailer that played a few months later included a sneak peek at Wonder Woman and then I became more intrigued, hoping there would be more to the story.

In an attempt to build the Justice League (and the movie studio’s coffers), this new installment in the DC Comic world of films is quite dark and takes itself a little too seriously.    It’s flawed, yet has some epic moments worth seeing.     

Uplifting theme: 
  • “We can do better.  We will.  We have to.” – Batman
  • “Ignorance is not the same as innocence.” – Anatoli Knyazev (Callan Mulvey)
  • God vs. man.
  • “What is good?  In a democracy, it’s a conversation, not a unilateral decision.” – Senator Finch
  • Good vs. evil.
  • Revenge vs. forgiveness.

Things I liked:
  • I like Ben Affleck as Batman.  His greying sideburns give him a certain level of sophistication.  Some think he makes a better Daredevil.  Good for him for playing 2 superheroes!  How about a Batman vs. Daredevil movie?!  Ha ha
  • I love the handsome Henry Cavill as Superman.
  • Gal Gadot is a gorgeous Wonder Woman.  Her legs are perfect.
  • Jesse Eisenberg plays the fast-talking, psychotic genius Lex Luthor.  His over-the-top, intense performance reminded me of Heath Ledger’s outstanding portrayal of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film The Dark Knight .
  • See it in 3D if you can.  There are a lot of scenes that are nicely enhanced…simple things like falling leaves, snow, and underwater views, not to mention all of the CGI action sequences.
  • The beginning of the movie had some really great sequences that set the tone and serve as a little "catch-up" for those who can't remember what happened to the characters in their last movies.
  • The new Batmobile is pretty dang cool.  I’d like it to stop moving for once so that I can get a better look at it.

  • Walking Dead: Season 2 fans will be happy to see that Batman’s mom is played by the lovely Lauren Cohan for a few brief moments.
  • I also love watching anything with Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, and Diane Lane in it.  Here’s a picture of me with Diane Lane!  (Yeah, I keep showing it every time I review a movie with her in it.  I don't have many pictures of me with celebrities.  ha ha)

  • One of the best things about this movie is the Lego Batman trailer that plays before the movie.  That movie looks awesome!
  • Everyone likes to poke fun at Christian Bale's ridiculously deep Batman voice.  This film makes more sense when you see Alfred make a device to intentionally change Bruce Wayne's voice to hide his identity.
  • The special effects were pretty amazing.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Marvel Comics has been knocking it out of the park lately with their superheroes movies because of their coolness factor + humor.  This Batman v. Superman movie, “the greatest gladiator fight in the world”  has very little humor.  The audience walked out almost drained, rather than energized.
  • TONS of CGI.  It comes at you constantly and so quickly that it becomes almost numbing.
  • Batman wears full body armor like he’s playing Halo 5: Guardians video game.
  • When are Alfred and Batman ever going to shave? 
  • There were quite a few lines in the movie I disliked on a philosophical level.  Lex Luthor spouts all kinds of pessimistic theories and even Superman says “No one stays good in this world.”  I refuse to believe that.
  •  The movie tries to cover a lot of time and back stories, as well as add some new monsters into the mix, but it ends up being too choppy and heavy-handed.
  • It's a bit scattered, messy, and sometimes confusing.

Funny lines:
  •  “You’re psychotic.” –  Lois Lane
“That is a 3 syllable word for any thought too big for little minds.”  – Lex Luther
  • “I’m not a lady.  I’m a journalist.” – Lois Lane  
  • “Even you’ve gotten too old to die young…not for lack of trying.” - Alfred
  • "Maybe it's the Gotham City in me...we've just had a bad history with freaks dressed like clowns." - Batman
Interesting lines:
  •  “If man won’t kill God, the devil will do it.” – Lex Luthor
“What have you done?” – Superman
  • “You want to know the oldest lie in America, Senator?  It’s that power can be innocent.” – Lex Luthor

  • “The world has been so caught up with what Superman can do, no one has asked what he should do.” – Senator Finch

  • “That's how it starts...the fever..the rage...the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.” – Alfred

  • “We don’t have to use a silver bullet, but if we forge one, we don’t have to depend on the kindness of monsters.” – Lex Luthor

  • “And now, God bends to my will.” – Lex Luthor
  • "You're not brave.  Men are brave.  You say you want to help people, but you can't experience their pain...their mortality.  It's time you learned what it means to be a man!" - Batman

Tips for parents:   

  • Amy Adams is naked in a bath tub, but you mostly only see her shoulders.  Clark Kent steps into the bathtub with his clothes on and gets frisky.
  • Endless barrage of explosions, fights, chase scenes, buildings destroyed, car smashes, and firing weapons.
  • Yep, there will be PLENTY of merchandising!   

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Allegiant bores with too much CGI

Movie Title:      The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Grade:   D

Rating:   PG-13, 2 hours 19 minutes

In a Nutshell:    Filled with TONS of CGI and special effects, this third installment in the Divergent franchise stretches out the story probably more than it should.

You definitely need to have seen the first two movies in the series in order to understand what the heck is going on in this one.  This isn’t really a stand-alone movie.

Click here to read my movie reviews  for Divergent and Insurgent and be sure to watch the movies in the correct order so they make more sense. 

Uplifting theme: 
  •  “Great leaders don’t seek power.  They’re called out of necessity.” – Johanna (Octavia Spencer)
  • What do we do when we lose our humanity?
  • ‘I don’t know who told you that being different was a bad thing…” –  David (Jeff Daniels)
  • “Maybe it’s time to start embracing everyone instead of dividing them into groups.” - Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley)

Things I liked:
  • Shaleilene Woodley looks more grown up and beautiful.  Super cute hair cut.
  • I liked the concept of the cool bubble things that surround people and allow them to float, although it definitely looked CGI and fake.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Everything looks fake.  While “Star Wars Awakens” used a lot of CGI, they were successfully able to create enough real sets that made the scenes truly believable.
  • Characters are paper thin.  
  • Lots of crowds of extras yelling and shaking their fists halfheartedly.
  • “Purify the human genome” sounds a lot like what Hitler was trying to do…
  • That’s hilarious that the other side of the wall has such advanced technology, yet a lot of their areas still look like beat up warehouses.
  • The chase scene towards the end was super fake and lame.
  • Some of the actors seemed as bored as the audience.

Funny lines:
  •  “This is fun.  I’m glad we did this.” – Peter (Miles Teller) 

Interesting lines:
  • “You are the only one worth saving.” - David
  • “Hello.  I come from outside the wall, where we have all but destroyed each other.” – narrator
  • "We created factions to create peace.” - narrator    (What kind of logic is that?)
  • “Sometimes walls are designed to protect us.” – announcement lady on screen
  • “It’s impossible.” – Tori (Maggie Q)       “So.” – Tris
  • “People are sheep and they need a shepherd to guide them…and when they resist, they are slaughtered.” – Max (Mekhi Phifer)
  • “Why did you go to war with Janine if you were just going to become her?” – Four (Theo James) 
Tips for parents:   

  • Point blank shooting in the head.
  • You see Shalene’s naked body (silhouette)  in the dark.
  • Lots of shooting, explosions, fighting
  • Dead bodies on the ground
  • No profanity.

Monday, March 14, 2016

War Room empowers Christians to use prayer as a powerful weapon

I usually review new movies right when they hit theaters, but I missed this one and finally had time to see it and wanted to be sure you knew about it!

Movie Title:      War Room

Grade:   A-

Rating:   PG, 2 hours

In a Nutshell:    By AffirmFilms,  this faith-inspiring film will empower Christians to use prayer as a powerful weapon in their lives.  The film is definitely geared towards viewers who are already Christians with the intent to motivate us to be “hot” in our faith, not luke warm. 

I love the concept of battling for our loved ones with a strategy in our prayers so that our faith has true power.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  “The life we’re given should never be taken for granted.” – Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie)
  • “To win any battle, you’ve got to have the right strategy and resources and victories don’t come by accident.” – Miss Clara
  • It takes courage to live the gospel.

Things I liked:
  • I love the idea of Clara's “Prayers Answered” frame on the wall upstairs, a document that lists blessings received.
  • Not everyone is lucky enough to have their own private closet like Clara's or Elizabeth's, but we can find some place in our home to turn into a War Room .
  • Clara makes for a great preacher.
  • I wish I could cry like Priscilla Shirer does…just delicate, sincere tears, unlike when I cry and my whole face turns red and puffy while my nose runs.  ha ha
  • Imagine how we could bind Satan if we all gave speeches to him like the the one Elizabeth did that one night outside her front door.
  • Clara was adorable with her "dumb" phone and smart phone.
  • I love how well-worn Clara’s scriptures were.
  • I know it was just a movie, but the grace felt real. 
  • I love how Clara taught Elizabeth that she can't change anyone; the Lord is the only one who can.
  • The production value was one of the best I've seen for a Christian movie.  Christian films can often look so cheesy with wooden actors.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It is heavy-handed preaching.  Non-Christian critics think the movie is ridiculous.
  • Even with faithful prayer, not all of our prayers are tied up in a neat bow in the end like in this movie.  Life is hard and full of things that don't go our way.
  • Some of the acting was a bit stiff and surface-level.

Funny lines:
  •  “You know what my mama used to say to me?  She said submitting to your husband is so you can duck so the Lord can hit your husband.” – Mandy (Beth Moore)
  • “Oh Devil!  You just got your but kicked!” - Clara 

Interesting lines:
  • “Just because you argue doesn’t mean you fight well.” – Clara
  • “When I fought against my husband, I was fighting against my own husband and my family.” – Clara
  • “Why did you do that?” –  Danielle Jordan (Alena Pitts)
“Because that’s how I wanted to be treated by him.” - Tony Jordan (T.C. Stallings)
  • “I would rather have a man chasing Jesus than a house full of stuff.” – Elizabeth
Tips for parents:   

  • The film deals with issues of marital fidelity and corporate stealing.
  • No profanity.
This film is now available on DVD at:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Young Messiah features a very sweet little Jesus

Movie Title:    The Young Messiah       

Grade:   PG-13, 1 hour 51 minutes

Rating:   B+

In a Nutshell:    “Inspired by scripture, rooted in history”, this is a very respectful telling of what MIGHT have occurred in Jesus Christ’s childhood. 

Based on Anne Rice’s book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel , this is a lovely family-friendly movie for the Easter season.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
  • We all grow from grace to grace in our understanding of God’s plan for us.

Things I liked:
  • I love watching Sean Bean in anything.
  • Adam Greaves-Neal does a nice job as the young Jesus.  What a sweet little face.
  • Italian actress Sara Lazzaro plays a loving, protective Mary.  Vincent Walsh plays a humble, self-sacrificing Joseph.  There are several sweet scenes where Joseph buoys up Mary during her moments of fear and doubt.  He tells her, “I thank God for choosing me every day.  Every day.”
  • The cast, for the most part, looks believably Middle-Eastern.
  • Rory Keenan is a perfectly creepy Satan, who is constantly lurking around and whispering evil ideas in everyone’s ears.  Reminiscent of the “fall” of Adam and Eve, he eats an apple in the opening scene and is represented as a snake in several other scenes+.
  • I’m glad that the sets don’t look like cheesy Hollywood sets.  The fabrics are rough and the tiles are worn and dingy.  Everything looks very believable.
  • I thought it was interesting to show that Jesus was the only one who could see Lucifer.  After a conversation with Satan, Jesus exclaimed “You don’t know the answers, do you?  You don’t know what’s going to happen!”
  • I appreciated the parental struggles of Mary and Joseph as they decided when and what to tell Jesus and how to answer his questions.  Joseph explains to Jesus “Your questions are the questions of a child and your answers are for a man.”

Things I didn’t like:
  • We already know how the story “ends”, so the film lacks a certain amount of tension, mystery, and anticipation.
  • The target audience is most definitely Christian with very little attempt to convince the non-believer.
  • There are many events that are not in the scriptures or are scripturally inaccurate, but the viewer should know that will be the case going into it.
  • There is kind of an odd scene where Cleopas and Jesus go down in the water at the river Jordan.  I assume it was supposed to be a forshadowing of Jesus’ baptism there later?
  • Everyone looked authentic, except one actress with fake boobs who looked out of place in the movie.

Interesting lines:
  • “There’s only one miracle – it’s Roman steel.” – Severus (Sean Bean)
  • “How do we explain God to His own son?” – Joseph
  • “He’s just a child.” – Joseph
“No.  I was just a child and so were you, but he is not just a child.” – Cleopas (Christian McKay)
  • “Chaos rules and I am its prince.” – Lucifer
  • “Is that it?  Is that all you can do?” – Lucifer to Jesus as he was praying
Tips for parents:   

  • There is a disturbing scene where Jesus and his family are traveling to Jerusalem and have to walk through a road lined with men who are currently being crucified.  That road was famous at the time and really did exist.
  • A man begins to sexually assault a woman and she murders him while Jesus watches.  In fact, he sees a lot of disturbing things that might frighten young children.
  • Children may not be familiar with the “blood of innocents” that Herod caused in search of the young Christ child at his birth.  The movie shows images of that event and revolves around Herod’s son’s attempt to find Jesus and kill him.
  • No profanity.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane keeps you in suspense the entire time

Movie Title:      10 Cloverfield Lane

Grade:   A-

Rating:   PG-13, 1 hour 45 minutes

In a Nutshell:    J.J. Abrams puts a spine-tingling spin on doomsday prepping.  He is a master at suspense and this psychological thriller has plenty of it.  He loves to NOT show the audience things, which adds even more to the achingly tense scenes and viewer anticipation.  

Did you ever see his 2008 Cloverfield movie?  (It made me dizzy with all its shaky cam effects.) This is sort of a sequel, but it’s not necessary at all to have seen that one to understand this one. 

Uplifting theme: 
·       Which is scarier: the known monster or the unknown one?
·       Be prepared. 

Things I liked:
·   Excellent performances by John Goodman (Howard), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Michelle), and John Gallagher Jr. (Emmett) Did you know that both Mary Elizabeth and John got their start on Broadway?
·       The film really plays with you, so much so that you never know exactly what the truth is until the end.
·       Foreboding music really gets you on edge….the whole time.
·       I love the close-ups on small things that really tell the story without words, such as when you see Michelle’s white knuckles on the steering wheel to her chipped fingernail polish.
·       Fantastic car accident in the beginning.  Very well done.  It really got me.
·       You’ll get to see lots of emergency prep products and think about what you might need if there really were some kind of disaster.  I noticed Emergency Essentials buckets in the house, which is a company I have used for many years and can highly recommend!
·       The Santa Clause card game scene was outstanding.  It was intense, funny, and the moment where the movie really revs up and gets crazy.
·       The majority of the movie takes place inside a very small space, which increases the dramatic tension immeasurably.
·       This is director Dan Trachtenberg’s first movie.  It looks like he has a bright future.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The ending.  Hmmm….could have been stronger.  Does that mean this will be a trilogy?   J.J. Abrams refers to anticipation as his “mystery box.”   He is excellent at building expectation, but sometimes the end result is a bit disappointing.  I’m still mad at him for the TV series Lost: Season 6 - Final Season , but I think he did a a great job with Star Trek Into Darkness .  His next one comes out this summer!
  • Like the first Cloverfield movie, you only get to see a tiny bit of the “thing”.  You’ll be disappointed if you think you’re going to see a bunch of monsters or aliens.
  • John Gallagher’s character doesn’t get as much attention as you might want.  There is a tiny back story, but it feels rushed and we don’t get to know him very well.  Of course, Michelle is the protagonist in the story, so her experience is where the focus is.
  • There’s really only one line that shows any connection with this movie to the first Cloverfield and that is when Howard mentions he worked for a satellite company.  In the first movie, it is a satellite that falls into the ocean that awakens a monster/alien from underneath.

Funny lines:
  •  “There’s no place like home.” – Howard
  • “Neither one of us will be able to go up there to help you if you get stuck.  Don’t get stuck.” – Howard
  • “Come on!” - Michelle

Tips for parents:   

  • There are some explosions, a shooting, and some gruesome images of dead people that might frighten young children.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in her underwear during some scenes.
  • 1 F-bomb.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Risen is timed perfectly for Easter

Movie Title:  Risen

Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG-13, 1 hour 47 minutes

In a Nutshell:   Remember the great biblical movies from the 1950’s, such as The Ten Commandments , Robe, The , and Ben Hur ?  This new “sword and sandal” film isn’t quite as epic as those, but it’s pretty good. 

I usually cringe a little bit when watching Christian films, because they can be so cheesy.  I AM Christian, so I want them to be amazing.  This one is simple, yet very well done and timed perfectly for the Easter season.

What makes Risen good is that its story is told through the eyes of the soldier in charge of the investigation, an unbeliever. 

Risen is a story about the empty tomb.  All of us, ultimately, have to make a decision about that empty tomb.  Did Jesus truly rise after three days of death?  Is he the Messiah? Will we live again?  In the words of Mary Magdalene, “Open your heart and see.”

 Uplifting theme: 
  • The last thing Jesus says in the movie is “And know that I will be with you always.”
  • “It’s not just about life eternal, but how to live.” – John (Mish Boyko)
  • “Will you fish too?” – Simon Peter (Stewart Scudamore)

Things I liked:
  • Joseph Fiennes gives us a thoughtful performance.
  • I loved that the actors didn’t look like squeaky clean Hollywood actors, but rather, they had sun burns, leathery skin and bloody cuts that were still healing.
  • There are many lessons to be learned.  For example, the soldier sits with Jesus in an intimate conversation and admits, “I don’t even know what to ask.”  Jesus encourages, “Speak with your heart.”  While we may not get to physically sit next to the Savior, we can pray and speak with Him from our hearts.
  • Jesus is called Yeshua in the film, adding to an authentic feel of time and culture.
  • Pretty Sea of Galilee scenes.
  • It shows the shroud that covered Jesus’ body.  I would have liked to see more story developed with that piece of evidence.
  • Cliff Curtis gives us a new version of Jesus, and Peter Firth plays a Pontius Pilate who is led by ambition and politics.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Accents weren’t consistent.  Everyone had some kind of a British or quasi-American accent, except for Mary (Maria Botto) who sounded like she was trying to speak English with a Middle-Eastern accent.
·       There were several inaccuracies in the film, according to scripture, but no great doctrinal issues were changed.
·       It’s going to take some getting used to when we see Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in films other than Harry Potter.
·       There is some “artistic license” taken, but most of the scenarios are plausible.

Interesting lines:

  • “What frightens you?” –  Jesus
“Being wrong.  And betting eternity on it.” – Clavius
  • “When the Messiah comes, Rome will be nothing.” – some guy
“Until then.” – Clavius
  • “All that for peace?  Is there no other way?”  - Pontius Pilate
  • “Do you truly believe all this?  -  some guy
“I believe.  I can never be the same.” – Clavius

Tips for parents:   
  •  You’ll see dead bodies being crucified, burned, and buried.
  • There is a violent battle scene towards the beginning.
  • No profanity.

I invite you to share one of my favorite Easter videos.  For a really beautiful video about the resurrection of Jesus, perfect to share with your family at Easter, check out:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Zootopia is great fun for all ages

Movie Title:      Zootopia

Grade:   A

Rating:   PG-1 hour 48 minutes

In a Nutshell:    This smart, colorful animation has a touch of Disney magic with new, adorable characters that are sure to make this family-friendly comedy a classic.  

Zootopia is to 2016 what Inside Out was to 2015. 

Fun for all ages, you’ll want to see it again to catch everything you missed the first time because so much was going on in each frame.

Voice talents include Once Upon a Time: Season 1 ’s Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, and even Frozen ’s Kristen Bell.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  “Anyone can be anything.” – Judy
  • “Try to make the world a better place.  Look inside yourself and know that change starts with you.”  - Judy
  • Anti-bullying, tolerance.

Things I liked:
  • Characters are well defined and developed….and adorable.
  • The little skit at the beginning of the movie was ridiculously cute.
  • The sloths at the DMV were HILARIOUS.  All of the parents in the audience were practically rolling on the floor.  We’ve all experienced the joys of the DMV before.
  • I love how Judy’s bunny nose twitches and her foot taps fast.  Adorable.  Her ears are so expressive.  According to her, I'm not allowed to call her cute.
  • Shakira as a singing rock star gazelle.  Her gazelle app probably exists already.
  • It’s almost a primer for kids on film noir crime mysteries.
  • Keep watching during the credits at the end.
  • Paying extra for 3D isn’t necessary to enjoy the fun and magic; however, the crisp, detailed animation is even more brilliant in 3D.
  • There is plenty to enjoy about this film at first glance, but there are even weighty, political topics under the surface that you can talk about during the drive home.
  • The animation design is excellent.  It was fun seeing the design of all of the different kinds of animals.  The armadillo cracked me up.  Here is one of my sons holding a real baby armadillo.

Things I didn’t like:
  • There is a funny, yet sort of inappropriate nudist scene at the naturalist club.  Of course, kids are use to seeing animals “naked”, but the context seemed odd.
  • Considering it’s a kid’s movie, you can expect a few fart jokes.

Funny lines:
  • “That is the most stupidest thing I ever heard.” – Gideon Grey
  •  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Judy (quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt)
“And bears.” – Stu Hopps
  • “She has no need for a fox taster.” – Bonnie Hopps
“Oh come on!  When is there no need for a fox taster?” – Stu Hopps

  • Who still uses CD’s? - Nick
  • “I was small and emotionally unbalanced like you once.” – Nick to Judy
  • “I will take your kindness and pay it forward.” – Mr. Big
  • “We’re changing the world one carrot at a time.” - Bonnie Hopps
  • “Ice this weasel.” – Mr. Big
  • “Do you think when she goes to sleep she counts herself? – Nick about Assistant Mayor Bellweather the sheep
  • "What did I say?  No icing nobody during the wedding!" - Mr. Big's bride
       "I have to, Baby.  Daddy has to." - Mr. Big

Things that cracked me up:
  • “Lemmings Brother Bank”
  • “Hoof Locker” store.  Check out all the names of the stores on the streets
  • Bunny Burrow population sign adding new numbers by the second.
  • “Fox away” can of spray
  • “Carrots for 1” frozen dinner
  • When the wolves can’t resist howling.
  • Funny animal versions of movie posters they walk by
  • Gazelle/Shakira’s male tiger dancers at the end of the movie

Interesting lines:
  • “My dear, we may be evolved, but deep down, we’re still animals.” – Mr. Big
  • “It’s great to have dreams, just as long as you don’t believe in them too much.” – Stu Hopps
  • “Real life’s a little more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker.  Life is messy.” - Judy
Tips for parents:   

  • No profanity, unless you count “Sweet cheeses and crackers” to be offensive.
  • There is kind of a “Breaking Bad” meth-making scene, including the names Walter and Jesse from the TV show.  Young kids won’t catch it, but teens will.
  • It's a Disney film, so yep....there will be TONS of merchandising to meet your darling little angels' needs.  Here are a few cute things to get you started: