Saturday, November 26, 2016

Moana is picture perfect for families

Movie Title:         Moana
Grade:  A+

Rating:  PG, 103 minutes

In a Nutshell:   Disney brings us another animated film that is simply gorgeous.  Each frame in the movie could be a postcard.  The animation is stellar and absolutely breathtaking.  The hair, sand, water, feathers, fabric and textures are done so well you feel you could reach out and touch them.

It has everything you want in a family-friendly film: solid characters, adventure, memorable music, a positive lesson for kids to learn, a good role model, comedy, peril, and touching family moments.

Before the movie begins, another Disney short entitled “Inner Workings” plays that reminds us to live our lives with meaning and joy.  Adorable.

Uplifting theme: 
  • You need to have heart.
  • “Find happiness right where you are.” – lyrics in one of the songs
  • “That voice inside is who you are.” – Grandma Tala
  • Sometimes our strengths lie beneath the surface.” – Moana
  • “The things you have learned will change you.  The people you love will guide you.”  - Grandma Tala
  • Your weaknesses don’t define you.

Things I liked:
  • Some of the song were written by writer and star of the Broadway smash hit Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) [Explicit], Lin Manuel Miranda.  The lyrics are powerful and meaningful.
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently earned the title as “Sexiest Man Alive”.  Now we get to hear him sing!  He has great comedic and dramatic timing in everything he does.
  • Auli’I Cravalho does a fantastic job voicing Moana.  The character even looks like her.
  • Hei Hei, the stupid chicken, got lots of laughs from the audience.  I adore Alan Tudyk and was tickled to learn that it was his voice that brings the chicken to life.  Pua, the cute pig, was just that…cute, but didn’t grab the audience’s attention nearly as much.
  • Maui’s tattoos interact with Maui and even the audience.
  • Clever use of tapa bark cloth prints to set up the story in the beginning.
  • I love a good romance in a movie; however, I love that there is no prince or hero in this one...Moana is the hero. Moana’s future is determined by her own efforts and leadership.  She is a strong role model for your daughters. You go, girl!
  • This movie will make you want to go on vacation to Hawaii or some other Polynesian destination.  If you’re in Hawaii, be sure to visit the famous Polynesian Cultural Center where you can get a taste of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand and more!
  • Stay seated until the very end of the rolling credits for a funny moment with the crab.
  • While watching the credits, you’ll notice a long list of babies who were born during production.  Cute.
  • I loved it when baby Moana helps a baby turtle find its way to the ocean.  I got to participate in a turtle release in Cabo San Lucas in November several years ago.  The turtle sanctuary invited us to help them release hundreds of babies. Soooooo cool!
  • Cute choreography.
  • Who knew coconuts could be so dangerous?  ha ha
  • The plot is pretty simple, yet Moana has a lot of interesting and creative adventures along her journey.
Things I didn’t like:
  • For some reason, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) was the only character with a Polynesian accent.
  • You have to listen to the songs a few times to understand the clever lyrics, because sometimes they're sung so fast you can't catch everything the first time around.
  • You don't have to see it in 3D to love it.

Funny lines:
  •  “Nothing?  Really?  What’s a demigod gotta do?” - Maui
  • “Really?  A blow dart in my butt cheek?” – Maui
  • “I’m the village crazy lady.  That’s my job.” – Grandma Tala
  • “When you use a bird to write with, it’s called Tweeting.” – Maui
  • “What’s nunya?” – Moana     “None of ya business.” - Maui

Interesting lines:
  •  “The call that calls isn’t out here – it’s inside me.” - Moana

Tips for parents:

  • There is a theme of reincarnation you might want to talk to your kids about.  Do you believe in reincarnation?  Resurrection? Talk to your children about where you believe you go after this life.
  • There is a fiery lava monster that might scare young children.
  • Young children may need to be reminded that they have to be very careful in the ocean when they go to the beach.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Keeping Up with the Joneses offers suburban spy comedy that's only sometimes funny

Grade:  C+

Rating:   PG-13, 101 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Jon Hamm  (Mad Men: Season 1) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) are gorgeous.  So, there’s THAT.  This suburban spy flick has some funny moments, but also some really dumb ones that miss the opportunity that this talented cast offers.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  Friendship, family, neighbors 
  • "It's nice to get out of the cul-de-sac every now and then." - Tim Jones (Jon Hamm)

Things I liked:
  • There are some truly funny lines and insights on society.
  • Good music soundtrack, featuring Rascal Flats.
  • Nice Mercedes in the end!
  • Patton Oswalt always makes me laugh.
  • Zach Galifianakis has great comedic timing.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s super crude with lots of sex jokes.
  • It makes fun of wholesome family life in the suburbs. 
  • Super cliched.
  • Silly humor.

Interesting lines:
  • "Things aren't always what they seem." - Tim Jones (Jon Hamm)
  •  "It takes courage to be honest." - Tim 

Funny lines:
  • "Kids can't have crooked teeth in this society.  This isn't Great Britain!" - Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) 
  • “I may not need to moisturize, but I have feelings.” – Nataline Jones (Gal Gadot)
  • “Never judge a woman by her spice rack.” – Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher)
  • “Maybe I should show you how to throw like a girl.” - Nataline
  • "A killer dress." - Nataline   "That's ALL of it?" - Karen
  • "Shock and awe!" - Jeff
  • “That’s a live snake!” – Jeff       “Yeah Jeff, it’s a snake restaurant.” – Tim      “Yeah, but at Panda Express they don’t serve panda!  Do they?” - Jeff   
  • “Get in the car and we’ll explain everything….mostly.” – Tim
  •  "I was making a head start!” – Jeff     “On your wife?!” – Karen    
  •  “What?  High speed car chases make me hungry, Honey.” – Karen

Tips for parents: 

  • A LOT of sex jokes and women in very skimpy clothing.
  • Conversations about poop.
  • 1 F-bomb and lots of profanity.
  • Raucous sex scene implied.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is simply...Fantastic

Grade:  A

Rating:  PG-13, 132 minutes

In a Nutshell:  The beasts are truly fantastic.   J.K. Rowling’s imagination is limitless.  She personally wrote this script, and David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter movies, shows he clearly understands the Harry Potter universe and is the one director who is uniquely qualified to successfully bring this new spin-off franchise to the Big Screen.  

If you’re a fan, you’ll love it.  If you’re not, you still have to appreciate the child-like wonder of this magical world.  The film is successful as a stand-alone film and you don't have to know anything about the previous Harry Potter films to be entertained. 

That alone is an amazing feat. This is the 9th film in this Harry Potter universe, so I’m especially impressed that we’re still being surprised and introduced to fun, interesting characters and creatures.  Well done!

Uplifting theme: 
  •  Friendship, love, respect, wonder, tolerance.
  • Be yourself. 

Things I liked:
  • Eddie Redmayne is fantastic, as always.  It’s impressive how he changes his posture to appear like a different character in each movie he is in. The audience laughed with delight while watching him do a mating dance with one of the fantastic beasts that looked like a bloated, glowing rhinoceros.
  • "Fantastic special effects and where to find them."  (I saw the movie in 3D.)
  • The musical score was noticeably very good.
  • Ron Perlman as Gnarlak. ha ha
  • There are a lot of little things to see within each screen, such as the shoe shiner who shines wands instead of shoes.
  • I really like the logo on the movie poster.
  • That struedel looked delicious.
  • It’s cute how Newt and Jacob climb in and out of that suitcase.
  • The little bowtruckle creature is ADORABLE!  He's kind of like a miniature Groot on Guardians Of The Galaxy and a sure-fire merchandising hit.
  • Dan Fogler is terrific and never feels like a side-kick character.  He is us.  We muggles have always wanted to enter Harry Potter's world, and now, we get to experience it through Jacob's eyes.  He is the classic "Every man."
  • That little platypus-looking creature thief was adorable and creative.
  • I thought the invisible umbrella was so sweet.
  • SPOILER ALERT:  Johnny Depp!  Yes!
  • I like the origin story that takes place 70 years before Harry Potter is born.  I got a kick out of the idea that the movie was based on a book that later becomes required reading for students at Hogwarts.
  • I thought it was fun to see the wizarding community in America, as compared to England's.  For example, the Brits call humans "muggles", whereas in the USA, they're called "No-maj".  Personally, I think the British name is more creative.
  • If you're a Potterhead fan, you'll get a kick out of brief mention of things from the past films and books, such as erumpents, and nifflers.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The newspaper headlines scrolled so fast in the beginning that I actually got dizzy.  They'll be hard for kids to read quickly too.
  • Even though this time period is around the 1920's, several of the guys had modern-looking haircuts.
  • It’s sometimes hard to understand what people say between the mumbling and the British accents.  Newt Scamander’s personality requires some mumbling, but it makes it difficult for an audience who wants to hear what he’s saying.
  • There are a few bad editing moments.
  •  Samantha Moron’s character was just creepy and disturbing.
  • Sometimes the sound was too loud and distracting.

Easter Eggs:

  • The "Deathly Hallows" necklace that is given to Credence (Ezra Miller).
  • Newt has an old-fashioned Hufflepuff scarf in his suitcase.
  • The Congress clock looks similar to the one the Weasley family has in their house to keep track of everyone's whereabouts.
  • Newt was expelled for the same reason that Hagrid was: they supposedly couldn't control their animals.
  • There is a picture of a man that has reference to the Lastrange family.
  • Newt mentions he worked with Ukranian ironbellies.
  • Obscurus Books is the name of the publisher of the book.
  • Mention of Dumbledore.

Interesting lines:
  • “Are you a seeker after truth?” – Mary Lou (Samantha Morton)
“I'm more of a chaser, really.” – Newt Scamander  (seeker/chaster = clever reference to Quidditch!)
  • “The most vicious creature on the planet…humans.” – Newt
  • “That’s why I want to make pastries…makes people happy.” – Jacob  (I teach classes at the famous Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College and that’s how I feel about baking!)
  • “People are easiest to read when they’re hurting.” – Queenie Goldstein (the lovely Alison Sudol who has a fantastic singing voice!)
  • “She was a taker.  You need a giver.” – Queenie
  • “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.” – Newt 

Funny lines:
  • “Why do I have to wear this?” – Jacob
“Because your skull is susceptible to breakage under immense force.” – Newt
  • “I don’t think I’m dreaming.  I ain’t got the brains to make this up.” - Jacob

Tips for parents:   

  • There are parts of each Harry Potter movie that would frighten young children.  Fantastic Beasts has similar scary moments.
  • No profanity, sexuality, nudity. 
  • There are some forms of physical and mental parental abuse. 
  • It has some dark themes, peril, and destruction. 

Can't get enough?  Relive the magic and wonder:

    Monday, November 14, 2016

    Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life elicits applause from kids and groans from parents

    Grade:  C+

    Rating:  PG, 92 minutes

    In a Nutshell:   Based on the best-selling novel by James Patterson, these middle school kids “shred” all the rules and try to “stick it to the man.”  Yeah, kids will think that’s awesome, but parents might be alarmed by the message to rebel.  Some critics are calling this movie “harmless fun”, but some of these ideas aren’t so harmless. 

    It definitely doesn’t have the same charm as Ferris Bueller's Day Off (one of my favorite movies), but there are a few laughable moments and you have to admire some of the creative pranks.

    Uplifting theme: 
    • “You gotta do you.  That’s the most important thing.” – Mr. Teller (Adam Pally)
    • Honesty, family, friendship, being vulnerable, thinking for yourself.

    Things I liked:
    • Middle school really is hard.  Everyone in the audience can relate.
    • There is some really cute animation mixed in.  It feels like you're reading one of James Patterson's books. 
    • Griffin Gluck is adorable in the movie as Rafe.
    • I always laugh when I see “Pedro” from Napoleon Dynamite in other movies.  My brother met him (Efren Ramirez) in a restaurant once.   Ha ha
    • Notice that the zombies do Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance routine.
    • Funny pug dog
    • Cute ending with a twist.
    • Dave & Busters….such a fun place!
    • Parks and Recreation: The Complete Series fans will get a kick out of seeing Retta.
    • There is a meaningful scene about a death in the family.

    Things I didn’t like:
    • It’s ridiculously unrealistic.  For example, the kids break into the school every night to create chaos without fear of video surveillance, door codes, or security guards…because, apparently, none of those things exist at this school.  Your own kids might think they can pull off some of these pranks as easily and end up in juvenile court.
    • Kids love thinking they’re smarter than adults.  In the case of this movie, the kids ARE smarter.
    • Most of the characters were so over-the-top. 
    • I usually enjoy Lauren Graham in movies, but not so much in this one.  I didn’t respect her character, because she was so in love with “Bear” that she didn’t see what a jerk he was or how badly he was treating her children.  Mothers need to be more strong and smart than that.

    Funny lines:
    • “Mom, she’s doing it again.” – Rafe
    “She’s going to get me arrested.” – mom/Jules
    “Hello!  Not getting younger here!” – Georgia
    “Do that again and you’re not getting older either.” – mom/Jules
    • “Whoever did this is committed to their art.” – Pedro
    • “Have you seen this web site discussion?  It’s gone bacterial.” – Dwight
    • “If I’ve learned anything from “Call of Duty”, besides learning to curse in 30 languages…” – Leo
    • “Are you speaking words or did you just have a stroke?” – Georgia (Alexa Nisenson)
    • “What rhymes with suck?” – Leo           “Nothing good.” – Rafe

    Interesting lines:
    • Opening up to people can get you hurt.” –  Leo (Thomas Barbusca)
    • “If we keep shoving a bunch of standardized tests down our kids’ throats, we’re going to end up with a bunch of standard kids.” – Mr. Teller (Adam Pally)

    Terrible things said at the school:
    • “Teach to the test, not to the kids.” – Ida Stricker (Retta)
    • “Rules aren’t for everyone.”
    • “I will punish them in ways I haven’t even thought of yet.” – Dwight   (This was meant to be funny, but it’s not.)
    • Creativity has no place in this school.” – Dwight

    Tips for parents:   

    • Your kids might learn some academic things.  For example, Rafe gives an entertaining presentation about the food cycle.
    • Pre-marital hanky panky and living together
    • Your kids may latch on to such phrases as “butt wipe” or “crap storm”.  If they’ve never heard of “Game of Thrones”, they may Google it and want to watch it.
    • Some profanity and sexuality.
    • There is a bully in Rafe’s class that could give you an opportunity to talk to your kids about bullying and how to handle it.
    Can't get enough?  Your kids will love these:


    Sunday, November 13, 2016

    Arrival will tickle your brain and warm your heart

    Movie Title:  Arrival

    Grade:  A

    Rating:   PG-13, 116 minutes

    In a Nutshell:  Earning 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this intelligent sci-fi thriller features an outstanding performance from Amy Adams that already has garnered Oscar buzz.  This fascinating film will tickle your brain and warm your heart.

    I didn’t want to post my review right after I saw it, because I wanted it to percolate in my head and process it for a while first.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved it.   It’s hard to write a review without giving too much away, so I apologize for the spoiler alerts below.  It’s better to see the movie “blind”, so to speak, so that you get to experience the unfolding of the story.  

    "Arriving" at the end of the movie and understanding it is a satisfying journey when you have to work it out in your own mind.

    You know a movie has done its job when the audience claps and then slowly walks out of the theater, as they try to contemplate what they have just experienced.  That’s what happened when I sat in a packed theater Friday night.  I can’t wait for you to see it and read your comments!

    Uplifting theme: 
    • “Language is complicated and messy and sometimes it can be both.” – Dr. Louise Banks
    • This is less about aliens and science fiction, but instead, more about humanity and working together.
    • “If you could see your whole life start to finish, would you change things?” – Dr. Louise Banks    I loved the movie City of Angels and how, despite life being hard and even heart-breaking at times, it’s still worth living….every minute.

    Things I liked:
    • Director Denis Villeneuve usually makes violent, profanity-laced Rated R movies like Sicario and Prisoners, so I was happy to see him offer something else more family-friendly and cerebral. 
    • The cinematography is fantastic.  One of the best takes is when we first see the alien spacecraft in a field in Montana with fog drifting over the ridge.  Gorgeous. The camera rolls in almost a 360 degree span that is absolutely stunning.
    • It reminded me a little bit of the movie  Signs , which I loved, because of the lingering uneasiness that lasts throughout the entire movie.  The tension is handled very well.  It also reminded me of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Contact, because of the lessons we learn about humanity and our connection to the universe.
    • I loved the no-gravity chamber inside the spaceship, especially when the people inside could look far down below at the people walking around.  Super cool. 
    • I’m such a nerd that when Dr. Banks’ lecture on the Portuguese language was interrupted, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear it.   Ha ha 
    • We’ve never seen aliens like this before.  We’ve never seen a spaceship like this before.  We’ve never seen a written language like this before.  Three cheers for creative writers!
    • I was mesmerized with how the spaceships left the atmosphere….soooo cool. 
    • Did you catch Louise’s earrings at the fancy event when she was talking to General Shang of China (played by Tzi Ma)?  If you look closely, you’ll also see that same image repeated on her daughter’s notebook.  Pay attention to other places you see a bird in a cage too.
    • There is a little bit of humor, which audiences always appreciate.
    • SPOILER ALERT.  As a university professor who teaches English, I LOVE that the film revolved around language and trying to communicate with the aliens, yet was really about how we humans communicate with each other.  Amy Adams’ character (also a college professor) wrote, “Language is the cornerstone of civilization.”  The gift that the aliens brought was perfect. An intriguing idea in the movie is that language shapes the way we think more than the way we think shapes our language.
    • HUGE SPOILER ALERT!!!!   I LOVED the way that time was used in the movie.  Because we’re human, we view time as linear.  That simple fact makes us believe that what we’re seeing at the beginning of the movie is the beginning of the story.  The movie folds over on itself, just as the language of the aliens does.  Once Louise realizes that, we also realize what is happening in the story.  Very cool.
    • Did you notice that the release date was 11/11?  Another palindrome in the movie...

    Things I didn’t like:
    • Some viewers have complained about the slow pace, but I didn’t mind, because it gave my brain a chance to consider all of the different story angles and messages.
    • Each encounter with the aliens cut off too soon.  I wanted them to last longer.
    • Jeremy Renner delivers a good performance.  Unfortunately, his character doesn’t contribute much and he admits that they wouldn’t be anywhere without Louise.  He figures out one thing without her and he makes a really strange decision in the end that I didn’t like. 
    • What was the deal with Forest Whitaker’s weird accent?
    • There is a lot of quiet mumbling, making it often difficult to understand what people are saying.
    • Sometimes things were out of focus, which was annoying.  I recognize that was an artistic choice, forcing us to focus on a specific thing, but sometimes it just annoyed me; I wanted to see everything!

    Interesting lines:
    • “If all I ever gave you was a hammer…” – Louise
    “Every answer is a nail.” – Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker)

    • Memory is a strange thing.  It doesn’t work like I used to think.  We are bound by time, by its order…” – Louise
    • “There are days that define your story beyond your life.” - Louise

    Funny lines:
    • “You made quick work of those insurgent videos.” – Colonel Weber
    “You made quick work of those insurgents.” – Louise
    • “When was the last time you did something stressful?” – Army doctor
    “Does this count?  Just saying…” – Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner)
    • “Yeah.  That just happened.” – Ian Donnelly
    • “Trust me.  You can understand communication and still end up single.” - Louise

    Tips for parents: 

    • Kids will think the aliens are cool, not too scary.
    • Yay for science and math!  
    • There are some subtitles your kids will need to read or have read to them.
    • The one and only person who dropped an F-bomb happened to be an Avenger…Jeremy Renner. 
    • The movie is based on a short story by Ted Chiang  

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Hell or High Water presents a great character study

    Movie Title:  Hell or High Water

    Grade:  B+

    Rating:   R, 102 minutes

    In a Nutshell:  Director David Mackenzie present us with rich characters to study in this modern Western flick.

    Uplifting theme: 
    • “I’ve never met nobody who got away with anything, ever.” – Tanner (Ben Foster)
    •  Family, sacrifice, brotherly love

    Things I liked:
    • Chris Pine is so awesome.  I love him in everything.
    • Jeff Bridges has really been hitting the Big Screen hard the last few years.  He’s perfect at playing a crusty old guy with a thick Southern drawl.  He does a great job in this film.  My only complaint is that half of the time you can hardly understand what he’s saying because he grumbles and mumbles so much.
    • Ben Foster does an excellent job.
    • It’s not smart to rob a bank in Texas where so many people have a conceal/carry license.  Ha ha   Tanner laughs, “These conceal carry permits sure complicate a bank robbery, don’t they?”
    • I had just learned what Pemmican is and they actually mentioned it in this movie.”  Check out this video to see for yourself what pemmican is and why it's the perfect survival food.
    • There is a surprising amount of humor.
    • The T-bone waitress (Margaret Bowman) conversation was pretty funny.
    • The weathered faces and attitudes of the poor Texans was believable. 
    • You just don't mess with a good, ole boy Texan sherriff

    Things I didn’t like:
    • Marcus makes lots of racist comments about Mexicans, native Americans, and Christians.
    • Big banks as the enemy is certainly not a new idea.
    • I just really wanted the brothers to take a shower. 

    Interesting lines:
    • “You never understood that fighting back makes the beating last longer.” -  Toby (Chris Pine)
    • "You know what Comanche means.  It means enemies forever.” – Bear (Gregory Cruz)
    “You know what that makes me?  A Comanche.” - Tanner
    • “You tell me not to be like you and then you offer me a beer.  Which is it?” – Justin Howard (John-Paul Howard)

    Funny lines:

    • “Why are you always dressed like me?” – Marcus (Jeff Bridges)
    “This is our uniform.” – Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham)
    • “You want to hear about these robberies or just sit there and let Alzheimer’s run its course?” – Alberto
    • “Could you tell their race?  Black?  White?” - Marcus
    “Their skin or their souls?” – Elsie (Dale Dickey)
    • “Tweakers don’t sleep.  They just tweak.” – Alberto   (“Tweaker” is slang for drug addicts.)
    • “You Rangers are an odd bunch.” – Bank Manager (Joe Berryman)
    “No, just him.” – Alberto
    • “Only A-holes drink Mr. Pibb.” – Tanner
    • “In your last days in the nursing home, you’ll think of me and giggle.” – Tanner
    • “Anything a 5 year old can do ain’t a sport.” – Marcus
    • “This is what they call ‘white man’s intuition.’” – Marcus
    “Sometimes a blind pig finds a truffle.” – Alberto

    Tips for parents: 

    • Lots of profanity, including lots of F-bombs.
    • Some people get shot and killed with some blood and gore.
    • You'll want to make sure your kids understand that just because someone needs money or has a sob story, it doesn't mean it's OK to commit crime.

    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Hacksaw Ridge spills blood and faith in big amounts

    Movie Title:  Hacksaw Ridge

    Grade:  A

    Rating:  R, 139 minutes

    In a Nutshell: This is NOT your typical Christian movie.  Directed by Mel Gibson, this graphic, true story inspires faith and courage amidst a background of the brutal, horrors of World War II. 

    The audience cheered and clapped several times during the movie to honor the first “conscientious objector" to receive the Medal of Honor, Desmond T. Doss.  The theater I sat in was also filled with veterans, based on their reaction and the comments I heard from them while we slowly walked out.

    Uplifting theme: 
    • “When the world is busy tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.” – Desmond
    • How well do you hold to your convictions?  How well do you show respect to those who do? 
    • Bravery, cowardice, patriotism, friendship.

    Things I liked:
    • The star cast really knocked it out of the park on this one.  The acting really was stellar, led by Hugo Weaving, Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, and Dorothy Schutte.  Vince Vaughn was surprisingly effective. Hugo Weaving was absolutely amazing.
    • Most people don’t much about Seventh Day Adventists. It was inspiring to watch a man truly live his religion.
    • It reminded me a little bit of the faithful story in Saints and Soldiers, but with the gore and drama of Saving Private Ryan
    • How do they film war scenes like this?
    • I always love true stories where you get to see video footage and pictures of the real people the story is about at the end of the movie.
    • Desmond goes to Fort Jackson.  I didn’t realize it was around during WWII.  My oldest son went there for his Army training too.
    • Mel Gibson was a Hollywood hunk for many decades, only to be laughed at and dismissed in the past few years as a jerk and wackadoodle.  This film may be his comeback and apology.  It’ll be interesting to see if anyone is willing to grant him an Oscar.  Gibson is on par with his excellent work in Braveheart and Apocalypto  After a 10 year directing break, welcome back, Mel.
    • There is a huge contrast between the sweet, innocent love story between Desmond and Dorothy during the first half of the movie and the brutal, gory carnage of the second half.   That stark contrast reminds me of the incredibly powerful movie “Life is Beautiful.”
    Things I didn’t like:
    • Does faith, patriotism, and courage have to be packaged with so much violence and gore to be appreciated?
    • No guns.  No killing.  Where have I heard that before?  Oh yeah....Batman.
    • You feel like your gut has been punched and your heart ripped out by the time you stagger out of the theater.

    Here's an interesting trailer with Mel Gibson.  Did he get religion?

    Interesting lines:
    • “The U.S. Army does not make mistakes.” – 
    • “You better come home to me.” – Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer)
    • “In peace, men bury their sons.  In war, fathers bury their son.” – Vito Rinnelli (Firass Dirani)
    • “You didn’t kill him. “ – Smitty (I loved Luke Bracey in Point Break (2015) 
    “In my heart, I did.” - Desmond
    • “All I saw was a skinny kid.  I didn’t know who you were.” – Captain Glover (I chuckled to myself, because Sam Worthington's character in Avatar was all about "I see you.") 

    Funny lines:
    • “I have seen corn stalks with better physiques.” – Sgt. Howell (Vince Vaughn)
    • “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Keep climbing.” – drill
    • “You’re like gum on a shoe, ain’t ya?” – Sgt. Howell
    • “It’s a bit late for target practice, don’t ya think?” – Sgt. Howell 
    • “I’m going to marry her. “ – Desmond
    “Does she know it?” –  Bertha Doss (Rachel Griffiths)

    Tips for parents: 

    • This is NOT a children’s movie.  It’s rated R for extreme violence, gore, lots of scary dead bodies, and realistic war images.
    • You see the rear end of a naked soldier.
    • It’s surprising how little profanity there is, considering the movie is full of tough soldiers in horrible situations. 

    Sunday, November 6, 2016

    Trolls is sugary sweet, colorful fun for all ages

    Movie Title:   Trolls

    Grade:   A

    Rating:  PG, 100 minutes

    In a Nutshell:    This sugary sweet DreamWorks movie is like watching a bag of colorful Skittles sing and dance and hug for an hour and a half.  What’s not to like?  

    The trolls are way cuter than those dolls that were around when I was a kid.  I mean, one troll poops cupcakes and another one farts glitter.  Totes adorbs.

    As the trailer says, this is a “musical adventure that proves one voice can change the world.”  It’s a happy journey, perfect for all ages.  If you’re a cynical adult who hasn’t had children, this movie could be torture for you.

    Uplifting theme:  
    • Find your happy place.
    • “Happiness is inside all of us.  Sometimes you just need someone to help you find it.” – Branch
    • “Happiness isn’t something you put inside.  It’s already there.” – Princess Poppy
    • “There’s always a bright side.” – Princess Poppy
    • Friendship, unity, teamwork, togetherness.  We need each other.

    Things I liked:
    • This fun flick is filled with toe-tapping music.  There are a lot of familiar songs you can sing along to, as well as some new ones you’ll instantly like.  Some of them have great messages for your kids, like, “I’m not giving up today.  I will get back up again” sung by Anna Kendrick.  The trolls rescue the music and the music rescues them.  Speaking of combining music with animation in the film, Anna Kendrick said in an interview with Regal Theaters, “It just feels like they belong together.”  Anna is precious as Princess Poppy.
    • Super colorful.  Even the color combinations are happy.  They use the lack of color to illustrate attitudes and states of mind as well.  It's simple symbolism that children can understand, but it works effectively.
    • Cliché’d dance number at the end, but still fun and definitely appropriate for this story.  You'll leave the theater in a good mood.
    • I know fanny packs are super dorky, but they sure are practical, right?  I thought it was hilarious that Chef Bergen wore one.  Speaking of Chef, I love Christine Baranski in everything she does.
    • I liked that there was a little character named Cooper (played by Ron Runches), because it's my son’s name.  There was a "Jar Jar Binks" aspect about Cooper that was a little annoying, however.
    • The animation is really good.  I’ve never seen felt, yarn, glitter, and fabric done so well before!  You really feel like you can reach out and touch them.
    • Funny, fat crow.
    • If you wondered why Zooey Deschanel was missing for weeks from her starring role in the TV show “New Girl”, you’ll be happy to hear her sing and voice Bridget, the scullery maid.
    • Justin Timberlake’s voice is a welcome addition to the animated world.
    • Once this movie hits the DVD market (March 2017), parents won’t mind this playing on the TV a hundred times a day.  Well, for a little while at least.
    • Scrapbooking! 

    Things I didn’t like:
    • Merchandising for this film seems blatantly obvious, yet even the strongest objectors will probably secretly want to buy one of these adorable trolls.  The whole idea of merchandising these products is ironic, considering the theme of this movie is that you can’t consume happiness.  Ha ha
    • The cast is absolutely fantastic.  It’s a shame that so many talented actors only get a short amount of screen/voice time compared to the main leads.  The list includes Gwen Stefani, James Corden, John Cleese, Jeffrey Tambor, Russell Brand, Kunal Nayyar, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
    • Not all of the humor works.
    • The movie poster could have been way cuter.
    • The plot is extremely simple.  Just enjoy the musical ride.

    Happy lines:
    • “Hug time is all the time.” – Poppy
    • “I know life’s not all cupcakes and rainbows, but I’d rather go through life thinking it mostly is.” – Poppy

    Funny lines:
    • “Solid burn, Branch.” – Poppy
    • “Why don’t you scrapbook them to freedom?” – Branch
    • “I don’t like the looks of him.  I mean, who wears socks without shoes?” – Branch
    • "It has everything we need: fresh air and sweet acoustics!" - King Peppy

    Tips for parents:
    • Other than the troll who farts cupcakes, there is nothing objectionable about this movie.  Well, you see the rear end of one of the trolls.  ha ha
    • No profanity, although one troll says "OMG."
    • The monsters are called Bergens, but they’re not super scary.  Young children should be able to watch this movie without getting frightened.
    • Talk to your children about what makes them happy and how they can help each other to find joy in everyday life.
    Let the merchandising begin!