Saturday, July 9, 2016

The BFG is full of Spielberg magic

Movie Title:   
Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG, 115 minutes

In a Nutshell:     In an interview with Regal Theaters, Steven Spielberg said “This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.” It was a reunion of sorts with some of his old team from the E.T. movie days. 

Director Steven Spielberg and musical composer John Williams are both film legends, so it’s awesome to see a new film that uses both of their talents again.  They introduce us to a magical world based on the 1982 novel by Roald Dahl.

Uplifting theme: 
  • The world is more giant than you can imagine.
  • The healing power of friendship.
  • "Dreams are quick on the outside, but last long on the inside." - The BFG

Things I liked:
  • Mark Rylance truly shines as the Big Friendly Giant.
  • John Williams’ musical score conjures a magical spell that rests lovingly on this old-fashioned tale.
  • I love all the fun words the BFG makes up.  He says, “I cannot be helping it if I saying things a little squiggly.”   English teachers will be delighted and frustrated.
  • Ruby Barnhill is fantastic and one of Spielberg’s best child talents ever. She is extremely entertaining with a bright future ahead of her.
  • Technically, this movie is stellar, mixing CG and motion-capture images as one.  Of that impressive blend, Steven Spielberg said, “Motion capture makes you believe a little girl and a big giant can exist in the same shot.”   The animation itself was incredibly detailed and realistic-looking.
  • I have never read The BFG by Roald Dahl, but I hear that there are some darker elements in the book that Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison decided to leave out in lieu of a more family-friendly, feel-good flick.  You don't have to read the book to enjoy or understand the movie.
  • Some of the conversations are pretty funny.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie definitely takes its time to develop, but the second half of the movie got bogged down a little bit.  The breakfast scene with the queen was fun, but definitely slowed down the pacing of the movie even more.
  • Exactly what The BFG does for a living is a little fuzzy.  I mean, was he self-appointed to his job and who is he going to pass his trade on to?
  • No women giants.  The BFG explains that giants don't have parents, so apparently, female giants aren't needed.
  • Am I monster to admit I was a little bit bored a few times?

Funny lines:
  •  You is an insult to giant people.” – Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement)
  • “Well, what I says and what I means is sometimes two different things.” – The BFG

Tips for parents:

  • This is a sweet family film for most all ages.
  • Very young children might be frightened by the bad giants or the thought that a giant gives them dreams by sneaking into their room at night.  They might worry that, like Sophie, they could be snatched out of their beds at night.
  • No profanity.
  • The BFG calls farts “wiz poppers.”   There are several discussions and BIG displays of farts.  Kids will think it's hilarious.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan blends Human with Nature..and a lot of CGI

Movie Title:     The Legend of Tarzan
Grade:   B

Rating:   PG-13, 109 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Director David Yates is most known for his work with the last four Harry Potter films.  This time he brings us a new take on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan. 

One of Hollywood’s first silent films was the Tarzan story, shortly after the original book came out.  While the story is flawed, and many feel like there was no need for a remake, the lush, romantic images in this movie will make you feel like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bocall could float down the river at any minute.

Did you ever see the 1984 movie “Greystoke”?  I loved it and highly recommend it.  This story...sort of....begins where that movie left off.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “A normal man can do the impossible to save the woman he loves.  My husband is no normal man.” - Jane Clayton
  • Honor, friendship, loyalty, revenge, respect.
  • The value of human an animal life.

Things I liked:
  • The musical score sounded very exotic and mysterious from the very beginning.
  • Christoph Waltz is fantastic in anything.
  • Alexander Skarsgard makes for a perfectly believable Tarzan.  I loved it when he greeted the lions he had known since they were cubs.  So sweet.  Great CGI moment!  As a 6'4" hunk of muscle and abs, Alexander convincingly plays a kind Tarzan who can easily kick butt when needed.
  • Margot Robbie makes a lovely, spunky Jane Porter.  She's a British actress playing an American, while Alexander Skarsgard is an American playing a Brit.  
  • Samuel Jackson.  Ha ha  He looks like he's having fun.  His character is actually based on a real person.
  • Beautiful scenery and settings.
  • Tarzan thinks those pincer ants taste like bacon.  Ha ha
  • There is a lot of action and movement from start to finish. 
  • There are some emotional moments akin to Bambi losing his mother.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie jumps back and forth in time and could become confusing for some people.
  • Sometimes the apes and animals looked real; other times the CGI looked too fake.
  • There is a LOT of narration so that the audience can understand what’s going on.  The problem is that the movie almost talks down to the audience.  Show us; don't just tell us.
  • Samuel L. Jackson’s existence in the movie is merely for comic relief.  He represents an American emissary, which doesn’t make a lot of sense in the story line.
  •  You hear Tarzan's famous yell, but you never actually see Alexander Skarsgard do it.  You also hear him growl like lions and other animals, but again, it's a soundtrack behind him and you never see his face while he's making those sounds.

  Funny lines:
  • “I’ve already been to Africa.  And it’s hot.” – John Clayton (Tarzan)
  • “I never take the stairs.  I usually take the curtains.” – John Clayton
  • “You DO know that the right side of your mustache is just a little bit lower than the left?” – Jane
  • “How are we supposed to catch a train going 40 miles an hour?” – Samuel L. Jackson    “Gravity.” - Tarzan

Interesting lines:
  • “He’s Tarzan.  You’re Jane.  He’ll come for you.” – Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz)
  • “They say an elephant’s eye speaks the greatest language.  Who else can say so much without speaking a word?”  - Tarzan
  • “These are what you came for?  What will you do for them? – Chief Mbonga (Djmon Hounsou)
“Whatever is necessary.” – Leon Ron (Christoph Waltz)
* No man ever started with less.” – Jane
  • “Your husband’s wildness easily disturbs me more than I can easily express, whereas your spirit…” Captain Rom
  • “That woman!”  - Captain Rom
  • “What was that?” – Captain Rom’s assistant
“Tarzan, although it sounded different than I thought.  Better.” – Captain Rom

Tips for parents:   

  • There is a LOT of violence.  Man vs. man.  Man vs. animal. 
  • Some profanity, usually out of the mouth of Samuel L. Jackson.
  • The issues of African slavery, mistreatment of the American Indians, and “blood diamonds” are addressed.
  • There is a before and after sex scene, but the audience doesn’t see what happens in between.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Moneyball hits a home run with baseball fans and audiences

I was flying home on a 5 hour flight yesterday and finally watched the 2011 baseball hit, Moneyball.  Hey, better late than never, right? In this case, it was worth the wait and gets an enthusiastic endorsement from me, just in time for this summer's baseball season.

Movie Title:    Moneyball
Grade:   A-

Rating: PG-13, 133 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Based on a true story, this smart sports movie hits a home run.  The heavy-hitting cast includes Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman (I miss him), Robin Wright, and Chris Pratt.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Adapt or die.” – Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)
  • “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” - Billy
  • “I’ll change the game.  I want it to mean something.” - Billy
  • Baseball is about people, not statistics.
  • “There is an epic failure going on in the game to understand what is going on.” –Peter Brand (Jonah Hill)

Things I liked:
  • Director Bennett Miller uses interesting camera angles to help you “see” things differently.  He also jumps from the roar of the crowd to complete silence to help you “feel” things differently.
  • Writer Aaron Sorkin is a master at quick-talking deals and clever wit.  Some of the dialogue scenes are simply hysterical.
  • Brad Pitt gives a stirring performance, even though most of the time he is snacking on something or chewing gum.  I know, I know...that's baseball.
  • You hear the voice of sports announcers Bob Costas and Tim McCarver.
  • There are some big game moments on the field, but also some big moments that happen in the heart.

Things I didn’t like:
  • At times the flashbacks get jumbled up with the present day and break up the flow of the story.
  • I hate it when brilliant, visionary protagonists get away with being jerks.  For example, Billy is constantly pushing over desks and throwing chairs in childish tantrums.
  • If you’re not a baseball fan, you might be a little bored at first and not understand some of the references to legends and players.  Keep watching.

Funny lines:
  •  “I’m not going to fire you.” – Billy
“F-You!” – Grady Fusion (Ken Medlock)
“Now I am.” - Billy
  • “Who’s Fabio?” – John Poloni (Jack McGee)
  • “That sounds like fortune cookie wisdom to me, Billy.” – Grady
“No, that’s just logic.” – Billy
  •  “I asked you to do 3 evaluations.  How many did you do?” – Billy
“47.  Actually, 51.  I don’t know why I lied just then.” - Peter
  • “Do you want me to speak?” – Peter
“Yeah, when I point at you.” – Billy
  • “It’s not that hard.  Tell him, Wash.” – Billy
“It’s incredibly hard.” – Ron Washington (Brent Jennings)
  • “Good meeting.  Every time we talk, I’m reinvigorated by the love of the game.” – Billy, sarcastically to Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
  • “What’s your biggest fear?” – David Justice (Stephen Bishop)
“A baseball being hit in my general direction.” – Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt)
“No. Seriously.” – David
“Seriously, that’s it.” - Scott

Billy’s advice:
  • “When you get the answer you’re looking for, hang up.”
  • “You may not look like a winning team, but you are one.  So, play like one tonight.”
  • “Is losing fun?  Then what are you doing having fun?”

Tips for parents:   

  • 2 F-bombs.  Wait, this is PG-13 movie, right?  According to the MPAA, PG-13 movies are only allowed 1 F-bomb, unless a vote earns a two-thirds majority saying it’s ok to have more.  Lame.
  • There’s a scene where a baseball player starts to take his pants down and dances on a table, but you don’t see anything.
  • It’s actually a really safe movie for kids, although they may be a bit bored with all of the talk of statistics and economics of the game.