Sunday, May 29, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass shares insights about time and family

Movie Title:      Alice Through the Looking Glass

Grade:   B-

Rating:  PG, 1 hour 48 minutes

In a Nutshell:  A lot of movie critics hated this movie, but I actually enjoyed the colorful ride.  It veers from the source material by Lewis Carroll, but offers some deep insights on time, family, and friendship.

Tim Burton's first Alice in Wonderland movie made a ton of movie, despite the fact that a lot of audiences and critics didn't like it very much.  As Alice says, "Curiouser and curiouser."

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Every day is a gift: every hour, every minute, every second.” – Alice (Mia Wasikowska)
  • “You cannot change the past, young lady, but I dare say you can learn from it.” – Time (Sacha Baron Cohen)
  • Friendship
  • “Every second counts.”   (I thought the little creatures that played “seconds” were interesting and creative.)
  • “Time waits for no man or, indeed, woman.” – Alice
  • Alice shares something her father used to say: “The only thing worth doing is what we do for others.” – Alice
  • “The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it’s possible.” - Alice

Things I liked:
  • Helena Bonham Carter nails the Red Queen.  She’s fantastic.  I love her laugh in this movie.  The last time we saw her as a love interest with Sacha Baron Cohen was in Les Miserables, a wonderful movie that makes me cry every time.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen usually plays disgusting characters in R rated movies, but he shines in this movie as “Time”.  The film is filled with both visual and verbal puns about time.  The back of his head has intricate clock mechanics, which looks pretty cool.
  • We get to hear the voice of beloved Alan Rickman as Blue Caterpillar one last time.  I thought he was a wonderful actor and miss him.
  • The special effects are really great, although 99% of the movie looks like it's filmed on a green screen with very little real things for the actors to react with.
  • Keep watching during the rolling credits at the end to see some more silly moments.
  • Alice is the captain of a ship named “Wonder” in the beginning of the movie.  In a discussion about the legal deed to the ship, someone says “Don’t give up the Wonder.”   Indeed.
  • When you see this movie in the theater, you’ll get to see Pink’s music video before the movie plays for her new song: “Just Like Fire”, which marks the end of a three-year hiatus for the singer.
  • See it in 3D if you can.
  • I love Anne Hathaway and how she moves her hands and body as the White Queen.  Watch how she walks.  Priceless.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie makes more sense if you have seen the last one that came out in 2010.
  • The music on the trailer sounds like a 1960’s acid trip.  This movie did feel a bit trippy.  
  • I adore Johnny Depp, but his character as Mad Hatter can be a bit frightening for children at times in this film.  The make-up is so overdone that it distracts you from his performance.  Someone offers an interesting insight that the Hatter is mad because “he denies himself laughter.”
  • SPOILER:  The plot is pretty silly.  Alice is willing to destroy the time-space continuum in the entire universe because her friend is sad.
  • Alice says that the Mad Hatter is her truest friend.  Really?  She doesn't have any good friends in the "real" world?
  • Sometimes the actors look like they just "phone it in" emotionally.

Funny lines:
  •  “I’ve always wondered when ‘soon’ is.” – The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp)
  • “Stupid me-shaped corridor.” – Time
  • “Will this day never end?” – Time
  • “Do you promise to be concise?” – Time (who then proceeds to ramble on and on)
  • “Don’t abandon me when I’m sulking.” – The Red Queen
  • “We’ll split up together.” – Tweedle Dee (Matt Lucas)  He and his twin brother look amazing.

Interesting lines:
  • “Must you always be so head-strong?” – Helen Kingsleigh (Lindsay Duncan)
“No.  It’s just more fun that way.” – Alice
  • “You’re running out of time.  I am inevitable.” - Time
  • “Everyone parts with everything eventually, my dear.” – Time
  • “It’s impossible!” – Mr. Phelps
“You know my views on that word, Mr. Phelps.” – Alice
  • “Time is a cruel master.” – Helen Kingsleight
“Time is a thief and a villain.” – Alice
  • “I wanted to believe I could do just six impossible things before breakfast.” - Alice
  • “All will become clear in the fullness of time.” – The Blue Caterpillar

Tips for parents:   

  • Young children will be entertained by the outlandish characters, but might get confused by the story that loops back and forth in time.
  • No profanity.  Nice.
  • Children will see that lying can have terrible consequences, even what seems like a small lie.
  • There is a scary dragon that burns up an entire town.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse made just for fans

Movie Title:     X-Men Apocalypse

Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG-13, 2 hours 16 minutes

In a Nutshell:    Another super hero movie filled with destruction, violence, and supernatural forces that just might destroy the world.  Ho hum.  

This installment in the X-Men franchise is set in the 1980’s, occurring right after the story in X-Men: Days of FuturePast.  If you’re not a fan of the characters or missed that last movie, you won’t feel very invested in this one.

If you are an X-Men fan, you’ll enjoy this more than the average viewer, and get a kick out of learning more back story about your favorite super heroes.  There is a moment early in the film when a student talks about a movie she is going to see, but admits that it’s a 3rd sequel, which everyone knows is not as good.  X-Men: Apocalypse both pokes fun at itself and takes itself too seriously.

 Uplifting theme: 
  • Loyalty, friendship, family
  • Good vs. evil

Things I liked:
  • Stan Lee!  I love that Marvel includes him in every movie.  They even gave him a cameo performance in the TV series “Agents of Shield”!
  • It was kind of hilarious when the all-powerful mutant Apocalypse (played by Oscar Isaac) starts watching TV.  When Storm (Alexandra Shipp) asks him what he’s doing, he mumbles “Learning.”
  • Some of my favorite scenes in this and the last X-Men movie involve Quicksilver (Evan Peters). I love it  when he runs around, rearranging everyone to places of safety.  His character and moments provide most of the comic relief in the film.  He’s awesome, even if he lives in his mother’s basement.  Ha ha
  • So many things get destroyed, so it was nice to see one of the mutants rebuild the school with his powers.
  • Director Bryan Singer makes a cameo appearance in his own film and describes the moment as “poetic” in an interview with Empire.  He plays a security guard and gets to hug Wolverine in the scene.
  • Keep watching the screen after the credits roll for a sneak peek! Audiences are teased with the potential of seeing Mr. Sinister and other cyborg villains.
  • Jennifer Lawrence's nephew is a huge X-Men fan, although he tells her she isn't a "real" X-Men.  In an interview with Jimmy Fallin, Jennifer revealed that her nephew played her son in the last Hunger Games film.  When she told him about this X-Men Apocalypse movie, he asked "Do I HAVE to be in this one too?"  ha ha

Things I didn’t like:
  • There are several languages spoken, requiring subtitles, which will make it difficult for young ones and slow readers to know what’s going on.
  • This will be very dark to see on a computer screen once it comes out on DVD.
  • 99% of the movie seemed like it was in front of a green screen.
  • The fight scenes were not nearly as good compared to those in Captain America: Civil War.
  • Psylocke (Olivia Munn) mostly stood around as a decoration.
  • Don’t get me wrong here, I LOVE Hugh Jackman and am always happy to see him in any movie, but I thought it was odd that all of the actors were younger versions of their characters, except for Wolverine.  The good news is that Hugh Jackman has agreed to one more super hero feature in Wolverine 3, scheduled to hit the big screen March 3rd, 2017.

Funny lines:
  • “The CIA would kill for this!”  - Moira (Rose Byrne)
  • “Why do you care so much?  Did you see a speech or something on TV?” – Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence)
  • “Hold on!  What did I miss?” – Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee)
Interesting lines:
  •  “Not all of us can control our powers.” – Cyclops (Tye Sheridan)
“Then don’t.  this is war.” – Mystique
  • “The 4 horsemen.  He got that from the Bible” – young handsome guy
“Or the Bible got it from him.” – Moira
  • “This world needs to be saved.” – Apocalypse 
  • “Just because there isn’t a war doesn’t mean there is peace.” – Mystique
  • “You got your war plane. Let’s go to war.” – Mystique
  • “You will never win.”  - Dr. Charles Xavier
“And why is that?” –  Apocalypse
“Because you are alone.  Am I am not.” – Professor X
* "A gift can often be a curse." - Professor X

Tips for parents:   

  • 1 F-bomb and some other profanity.
  • LONG sequences of violence and destruction.
  • Some characters and sequences might be too scary for young ones.
  • One of the characters is a Holocaust survivor, so there is some discussion about tolerance and hatred.
  • Most of the violence is bloodless, but in the beginning there is a body that is sliced and gory, as well as bodies that are on fire. Pretty icky.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Angry Birds movie has surprisingly good animation

Movie Title:      Angry Birds
Grade:   C+

Rating:   PG, 1 hour 35 minutes

In a Nutshell:   First of all, Angry Birds is a movie that should have come out about 6 years ago, when the Finnish company, Rovio Entertainment, released the app on smart phones and everyone went crazy for it.  Surprisingly, the animation was very good and I love gags that run through the length of a movie.

If you are a fan of the game, you’ll get a kick out of this movie.  If not, kids will be still entertained, since they're not looking for a deep plot anyway.  I wasn’t expecting much from a movie about an app, but it made me laugh out loud a few times and the audience I sat with loved it.  No doubt, viewers are going to take another look at their app that has probably been sitting idle on their phones for awhile.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  Take responsibility for your behavior.
  • “Anger is a weed growing in our garden.” – Judge Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key)
  • Friendship, belonging, acceptance
  • The underdog story
  • "Wisdom isn't something that is given.  Wisdom is attained." - The Mighty Eagle
  • "What the caterpillar calls the end, the world calls a butterfly." - Matilda 

Things I liked:
  • Josh Gad’s character, Chuck, steals the show.  I watched an interview with Josh Gad on “The Tonight Show” where he admitted he got winded while talking so fast.  He thought the tech team could just speed up his words in the editing process, but no such luck.
  • They actually did a pretty good job adapting the app to a feature film, especially considering the app has no real story.  We find out why the birds are angry and where the slingshots and castles come from.
  • Red had a nice house on the beach with a pool and waterfall.
  • Keep watching during the rolling credits to see a few more gags.
  • The baby birds were adorable.  I loved it when they sang to Red.
  • It’s very colorful and fresh.
  • Did you know that country singer Blake Shelton is the voice of one of the pigs?  (Earl Pig)
  • Jason Sudeikis does a great job as Red.  Other voice talents from Saturday Night Live include Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Kate McKinnon.

Things I didn’t like:
  • You don’t have to spend the extra money to see this in 3D.
  • That’s funny they would hire Sean Penn to simply grunt during the entire movie to play the character Terence, when they could have paid me far less to do the same thing.
  • Some of the action scenes happened so quickly that I wanted everything to slow down so I could better see what was going on.
  • None of the birds on the island can fly, except for the Mighty Eagle, voiced by Peter Dinklage.  They never explain why.
  • Some of the humor is pretty crude.

Funny lines:
  • "Something doesn't seem Kosher about these pigs." - Red
  • “Don’t look, Bobby.  The anger might be contagious.” – a mother bird
  • “Daddy!” – baby bird
  • “How YOU doin?” – flirty pig
  • “You can’t eat eggs!”- Red
“What are ya gonna do?  I’m a foodie.” – King pig

  • “I’m not blushing. I’m just red.” – Red
  • "They're probably in the castle!" - Red     
  • What's a castle?" - bird

Bird sight gags you might miss:
  • Mother bird throws up in her kids’ lunch bags.
  • “Home Tweet Home” sign
  • Store sign that reads “Early Bird Worms”
  • “Shell yes!”
  • “Hotel California – Eagles” plaque in Mighty Eagle's house

Pig sight gags you might miss:
  • Jon Hamm is the name of one of the pigs.  He’s not nearly as handsome as the Mad Men actor.
  • Piggy-back rides
  • Pig Latin
  • Hamlet
  • Ball hogs bowling
  • Hogwild
  • “Let’s pig out.”
  • “Pardon our dust.  Something Pig is coming.”
  • Hamnesty International”
  • 2 pig twins from the movie “The Shining”
  • Instaham

Tips for parents:   

  • The profanity includes “OMG” and the word “pluck” to replace any potential F-bombs.
  • There is a very inappropriate adult joke and gesture about ladies getting “busy” to have more eggs/children.
  • Lots of visual butt jokes.
  • There are a lot of pop culture references that will go over the heads of young ones.
  • There is a little bit of a mixed message.  In the beginning, anger is considered to be bad, as the main characters are sent to anger management school.  Then, at the end, everyone has the permission to get angry.  Of course, it’s for a good reason, but young kids might want to act out after seeing it.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Darkness is full of every scary cliche

Movie Title:      The Darkness

Grade:   D for doesn't bring anything new to the horror genre

Rating:   PG-13, 1 hour 32 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Nothing new here, folks, but if you’re like my son who loves to watch silly -scary movies with his friends once they hit Netflix, you’ll get a kick out of this one while you munch on popcorn.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Lesson learned: don’t steal things from national parks.
  • “The world is filled with things we simply can’t explain.” – Wendy Richards
  • “Sometimes the answer you’re looking for comes from where you’re not looking.” – Simon Richards (Paul Reiser)

Things I liked:
  • You get to see the evil creatures.  Yay.
  • Fans of Agents of Shield will enjoy seeing Min-Na Wen as Wendy Richards.
  • I live a few blocks from a street named Anasazi, as Southern Nevada was first inhabited by that tribe.  The movie uses Anasazi lore to build the story.
  • I like that they tried to make the house seem really lived in and not just a set.  For example, there are tons of boxes in the garage, like at my house!  I loved their pretty kitchen cabinets.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Who the heck is Jenny?  SPOILER ALERT:  We never get to find out.
  • Full of scary movie clich├ęs like lights that don’t work when you need them to, thunder at night, mopey teenager, a scary scene that turns into “just a dream”, and some typical jumps and scares.
  • The ending is pretty anti-climactic.
  • Teresa Morales (Alma Martinez) uses divining rods to locate the evil spirits.  When I was in San Antonio, I saw several ghost hunter tour groups wandering around town with those. The tourists loved every minute.
  • Sometimes there are Spanish subtitles, but not always.  You’ll hear Teresa and Gloria yell “No pertenecen a esta casa!” a lot at the evil ones.   It means “You don’t belong to this house!”  “Salgan de aqui!” means “Leave here!”
  • I’ve always loved Kevin Bacon, but he kind of looks a little creepy himself in this movie and he's not supposed to be the scary guy!  I'm surprised he agreed to be in this cheesy movie. Then again, did you ever see Tremors ?
  • Peter Taylor and his wife Bronny (what kind of a name is that?!) discuss a previous affair he had.  He lamely defends himself by saying “The affair didn’t mean anything.”   Why do men think their wives will accept that as a valid excuse as if that makes everything fine?   Infidelity means everything in a marriage.  I was impressed with his wife when, later, she said “We deserve a happy ending, Peter.  I forgive you.”   
  • Peter makes fun of his wife for wanting a Bible to look for answers or comfort.  He explains to her that you can’t find them in hotels anymore because people might be offended if there is only one religion represented by the hotel.  She says “Jesus!” and he replies, “Not any more.”
  • This movie reminded me a lot of the last Poltergeist movie.
  • Autism plays a big role in the plot.  Parents of autistic children might not like what is said about autism.
  • The way you learn about the Anasazi mythology is when the characters watch YouTube videos....over and over again.

Funny lines:
  •  “You’ve got stellar capacity!” – Simon Richards (Paul Reiser)

Interesting lines:
  • “Dark forces exist everywhere.” -  (Ilza Rosario)
  • “Demons bring out the darkness in people.” – Teresa Morales  (Alma Martinez)

Tips for parents:   

  • There is discussion of an affair and infidelity.
  • Bronny Taylor (Radha Mitchell) drinks a lot of Vodka to drown her sorrows.
  • 1 F-bomb, some other profanity.
  • Young children will be scared of the evil ones.  There is a scene with blood dripping down walls that will scare them, as well as creepy hand prints that appear.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain America delivers a powerful punch in the box office and the heart

Grade:  A

Rating:  PG-13, 2 hours 26 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Congratulations, Marvel.  You successfully created another superhero film that includes humor, TONS of amazing action sequences, impressive CGI, thoughtful themes and intelligent questions, all while staying true to the comic book heroes so many love and giving them heart.

This may be declared the first summer blockbuster movie of 2016, as well as one of Marvel’s best movies.  The Russo brothers seem to have rescued the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Each of the Captain America movies has been outstanding and gets better and better.  You can see my movie review for The Winter Soldier here. 

Combine the popularity of Comic Con and other knock-off "cons" with the flood of superhero movies in the last decade, and what a glorious time in history it is to be a comic book nerd.

Uplifting theme: 
  • When to compromise and when to stand firm.
  • The right to choose for yourself.
  • Vengeance vs. justice vs. mercy
  • Friendship
  • Choices and consequences

Things I liked:
  • The choreography of the fight scenes was truly amazing. Critics and future filmmakers will probably use this movie as a primer for how to make great fight scenes.
  • I love that Stan Lee is carefully placed in each Marvel movie with a funny line.  In this film, he plays a FedEx employee who asks “Are you Tony Stank?”  It’s a cute moment.
  • I love Captain America.   He’s so good, brave, kind, loyal, and patriotic.  What a great role model.  I love that grown men in the audience were wearing Captain America t-shirts.  Suit up! There’s a scene that will make girl fans swoon all over Chris Evans when his big muscles bulge even bigger while he holds a helicopter to the ground.  (sigh)
  • I love small details in movies.  For example, there is a bomb blast and you see little pebbles and dust in Black Widow’s hair.
  • There are a lot of jaw-dropping stunts.  That stunt team deserves an Oscar.
  • I didn’t know anything about Black Panther.  His solo movie should/could be really good.  Great job Chadwick Boseman!
  • Spiderman was really great and provided perfect comic relief.  Tom Holland nails Peter Parker as a young kid and Tony Stark’s connection to Spiderman (whom he calls “Underoos”) adds tasty substance to the back story.  When Tony first meets him, he asks “What are you? Spider Boy?”  When Peter declares “I’m Spider Man”, Tony smirks “Not in that Onesie, you’re not.”  Hilarious.
  • The CGI is extremely impressive.  There is a really cool scene where you get to see Tony Stark as a teenager.
  • Lots of cool gizmos and gadgets.
  • Ant Man.  Awesome.  The audience cheered the minute Paul Rudd first appeared on the screen. 
  • I don't know Vision at all, but I have always adored the talented Paul Bettany ever since I first saw him in A Knight's Tale .
  • Shout-outs to Don Cheadle (James Rhodes) who is excellent in everything, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, the lovable Martin Freeman (Everett Ross) , and Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff) who has gorgeous legs.
  • Robert Downey Jr. gives a solid performance and provides some depth to the story line.
  • I'm going to have to see it again just to catch all of the clever lines that are hurled at the audience so fast. For example, Tony Stark says to Captain America, "Why are you so defensive?" which is hilarious because Captain America's weapon is a shield.  ha ha

Things I didn’t like:
  • It seems like a good conversation could have prevented a lot of fighting, right?
  • There are some scenes that utilize subtitles that young kids won’t be able to understand.
  • There’s a moment where you actually see Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double’s face.  Otherwise, that stunt double kicks some serious butt and is amazing.
  • Jeremy Renner is good, but Hawkey's character didn't grab me in this film.
  • You don't have to be a Marvel fan to enjoy this movie, but it definitely helps.

Funny lines:
  • “Sometimes I just want to punch you in your perfect teeth.” – Iron Man
  • “I don’t know if you’ve been in a fight before, but there’s usually not this much talking.” – Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
  • “Can you move your seat up?” – Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
“No.” – Sam Wilson/Falcon   (Hilarious scene)
  • “Are we still friends?” – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
“That depends on how hard you punch me.” – Clint Barton/Hawkeye
  • “Congratulations, Captain.  You’re a criminal.” – Sam Wilson/Falcon
  • “So, you like cats?” - Falcon
“What?” – Captain America
“The dude shows up dressed like a cat and you don’t have questions?” – Falcon
  • “Ok, tiny dude is big now.  He’s big now.” – Sam Wilson/Falcon 

Interesting lines:
  • “Victory at the expense of the innocents is no victory at all.” – President of Wakanda
  • “In our job, you save people, but sometimes that doesn’t mean everyone…but you don’t give up.” – Captain America

  • “I was wrong about you.  The whole world was wrong about you.” – Iron Man to Captain America  (It made me so sad to see those two fighting!)

  • “Stay down.  Final warning.” – Iron Man

“I could do this all day.” – Captain America
  • “He’s my friend.” – Captain America
“So was I.” – Iron Man
  • “I should be the one to bring him in.” – Captain America
“Why?” – Black Widow
“Because I’m the one least likely to die trying.” – Captain America
  • “Steve, you know what’s about to happen.  Do you really want to punch your way out of this?” – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Tips for parents:   

  • There is a LOT of fighting, violence, and torture.
  • There is a bad guy with a burned face that might scare young children.
  • Some profanity.
Can't get enough? Let the merchandising begin!