Monday, February 27, 2017

A Dog's Purpose is manipulative, but you'll still cry

Movie Title:   A Dog's Purpose (DVD)

Grade:  C+

Rating:  PG, 120 minutes

In a Nutshell:   This sugary-sweet family flick feels like a Hallmark card that blends reincarnation with one dog’s discovery about what his purpose is.  We could all learn a lesson from him. 

Life lessons learned from a dog:
Have fun. Obviously.
Whenever possible, find someone to save and save them.
Lick the ones you love. 
Don’t get all sad-faced about what happened and scrunchy-faced about what could; just be here now.  Be. Here. Now.

Things I liked:
Josh Gad’s voice is unmistakable and awesome.
Britt Robertson seems to be in every family-friendly movie lately.  She’s adorable and so doggone likable.
Other likable cast members include Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, KJ Apa, and Jon Ortiz.
•   It's a film version of W. Bruce Cameron's best-selling novel in 2010.
* If you've ever lived with a dog, you'll be able to relate to many of the
moments in the movie.

Things I didn’t like:
It’s manipulative for sure, but you’ll still cry.
Children will enjoy it, but a lot of adults will mostly tolerate it on their kids’ behalf.
The trailer pretty much tells you the whole story.
You’ll feel sad about the times you didn’t play with your dog.
There are quite a few sad death scenes.
There are some dogs on the movie poster that are never shown in the movie.  For example, the dog never becomes a pug.

PETA and TMZ have created a lot of stink about animals that may have been harmed in the making of this movie, but those involved in the film say their reports are inaccurate and misleading.
The dog reports on what he sees happening from a dog’s perspective, which is often amusing, but not funny enough to evoke actual laughter from the audience.

Interesting lines:
“If I can get you licking and loving, I’ve served my purpose.” - dog    (This line is in the trailer, but not in the actual movie.)
“Life’s a mystery.” - Ethan

Funny lines: 
“I got a name. My name is Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey.” – Bailey

Tips for parents:   
Young children will probably like it, although the reincarnation aspect of the story will be confusing for them.  You’ll need to decide if you’re going to affirm that as true doctrine or instead, teach the principle of resurrection.
* You see Bailey die over and over again.
*  There are some dark story lines that include a gunshot death (with blood), domestic fights, drunkenness, kidnapping, a prank that burns a house down, and people who don't treat dogs well.
*  Clean language.
*  Kissing.

Fist Fight showcases the worst of American high school

Movie Title:    Fist Fight

Grade:  D for don't waste your time on this garbage

Rating: R, 1 hour 31 minutes

In a Nutshell:   #TeacherFight

This filthy movie features about 947,633 moments of profanity, bullying, drug-use, porn, and a huge variety of inappropriate and lewd behavior by high school teens AND adults. 

Uplifting theme: 
  • “It takes courage to grow up and to become who you really are.”   e.e.cummings
  • “Words are always going to matter.” – English teacher
  • “Actions have consequences.” – Ron Strickland (Ice Cube)
  • As I always tell my 4 sons, “Be. A. Man.”
  • If you don't stand up for yourself, who will?

Things I liked:
  • Andy Campbell is the perfect wuss.
  • Jillian Bell is hilarious, but inappropriate 99% of the time.
  • Christina Hendrick smolders, as always.
  • Occasionally funny pranks.  I was Senior class president of my high school and planned an awesome Senior Prank.  I sent home letters to all the parents of seniors, explaining that the students would have a particular day off school for some legitimate-sounding reason, forging the principal's signature.

Things I didn’t like:
  • There has to be premise for the fight, but Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) throws a temper tantrum in a classroom, destroys school property, and then picks a fight with another teacher.
  • Tracy Morgan always plays the same character in everything.  I walked past him in an airport once and said, "Hey!"  He answered back, "Hey yourself."
  • I hate the expression “Snitches have stitches.”  I’ve heard students say that before.  It encourages the lack of consequences. 
  • I hated the talent show where little elementary school student Ally (Alexa Nisenson) drops a million F-bombs.  NOT adorable.
  • I chuckled a few times, but it’s mostly not funny.
  • Ice Cube was good, but he pretty much plays the same character in everything he does too: tough, scary guy matched up with a weasely light-weight who plays the comic relief.

Funny lines:
  • “No meth period.” – Andy
“When I’m on my period, don’t do it?  That’s when I need it the most.” – Holly
“Holly, this has got to stop!” – Andy
“Cuz it’s a gateway?” – Holly
“It’s the finish line!” – Andy
  • “The guy’s a virtuoso.” – janitor
“That doesn’t seem so scary.” – Andy
“You didn’t see his eyes.” – janitor
  • “Where do I get drugs?” – Andy
“You’re in a public high school in the United States of America. There couldn’t be a better place to get drugs.” – Holly
  • “Whoever dies first haunts the school!” – Holly 
Tips for parents: 
  • This is a true Rated R movie that is not family-friendly viewing.
  • Tons and tons of profanity.
  • Tons of inappropriate images of porn, underage sex talk, and masturbation.
  • It makes American high school look like it’s filled with complete drug & porn addicted delinquents.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

John Wick Chapter 2 kicks you know what

Movie Title:    John Wick Chapter 2

Grade:  A-

Rating: R, 122 minutes of non-stop action and violence

In a Nutshell:  Revenge.  Huge body count.  Cool guns. Lots of violence.  Welcome back John Wick.

If you liked the first one, you'll love the sequel.  You can tell it's directed by a stuntman, Chad Stahelski. It's a master class in hand-to-hand combat. A movie critic from the Quad City Times described the stylish, slick film as a “ballet of violence.”  Well said.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Persistence, tenacity
  • Honor

Things I liked:
  • Cool intro scene with motorcycle image on the fa├žade of the building.
  • Rome!  I absolutely love Italy.
  • At times, there are subtitles, but I have to say they’re very stylish ones.
  • Common does a great job as Cassian.
  • The legend says John Wick killed 3 guys with a pencil.  You finally get to see that skill play out in this sequel.
  • The film actually ties up loose ends from the first movie.
  • Fans will be happy to see a cliff-hanger that assures another installment in this franchise.
  • The trailer doesn’t reveal much of the story.  Thank you.
  • Keanu Reeves does 95% of his own stuntman.  Check out some of the many impressive Keanu Reeves videos on YouTube that show how he trained for both John Wick movies.
  • You get to learn more about the criminal “organization” and its underground world.  I thought the telephone operators with all the tattoos were hilarious. 

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some of the scenes take place in dark catacombs, so this film will be hard to watch on a computer screen when it comes out on DVD.
  • It’s ridiculous how many fight scenes there are in large crowds, yet the people around hardly bat an eye, let alone move out of the way or scream.
  • John Wick has an excellent aim, yet so many of the other professionals keep missing their shots.

Interesting lines:
  • “I’m not that guy anymore.” – John (Keanu Reeves)
“You’re always that guy, John.” – Santino D’Antonio
  • “Rules.” – John
“Rules.  Without them, we’re like the animals.” – Winston (Ian McShane)
  • “So, you have a choice.  You want a war or do you just want to give me a gun?” – John
  • “Remember, you owe me.” – Bowery King
“You don’t want me owing you.” - John

 Funny lines:
  • “Does he have a name, Sir?” – Charon (Lance Reddick) asking about John's dog.
“No.” – John
  • “Never one to waste words.” – Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio)
  • “I’d like a tasting.” – John (as he tests out various weapons)
  • “And the lining?” – tailor
“Tactical.” – John
  • “I’ll make it quick.” – Cassian
“I’d appreciate that.  I’ll try to do the same.” – John
  • “7 million!  It’s Christmas!  We going to Applebee’s after this.” – Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne)  It was fun seeing Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne in some scenes together again after the Matrix 
Tips for parents: 
  • This is very, very violent, as expected.
  • Lots of blood and head shots.
  • F-bombs and other profanity.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lion will break your heart and then warm it

Movie Title:    Lion

Grade:  A-

Rating:   PG-13

In a Nutshell:  Adapted from the book A Long Way Home: A Memoir , this inspiring true story will break your heart and then warm it.  

Most people missed this film when it came to theaters (including me), but now that it has received 6 Academy Award nominations, everyone is talking about it (including me)!

Uplifting theme: 
  • What incredibly selfless love people give when they adopt children, especially the street children from poor countries.  Over 80,000 children go missing in India each year.  You can learn more about the movement that has started because of this movie at
  • Determination, love, courage, home, family, blood, bonds, heritage, adoption

Things I liked:
  • Beautiful cinematography.  Greig Fraser (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Zero Dark Thirty) uses a child’s perspective to film surrounding areas and provide a sense of wonder.
  • Three cheers for Google Earth!
  • The love of Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham) for their adopted children was so sweet.  I got teary eyed almost every time Sue was with her sons.
  • You don’t learn the touching reason why the movie is called Lion until the very end of the movie.
  • Dev Patel plays the grown-up Saroo with the absolutely adorable Sunny Pawar playing the young Saroo.
  • What makes the movie even more powerful is knowing that it’s a true story.  You get to see real footage of when Sue meets Saroo’s biological mother just three years ago in 2014.
  • As an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College, I thought it was fascinating that it was food that suddenly brought memories back to Saroo about his childhood.
  • I enjoyed learning more about India and its culture. We also get to visit Australia in the movie.

Things I didn’t like:
  • SPOILER:  It made me so sad that no one would help Saroo in the train station.  Poor thing.  I just wanted to hug him tightly and give him something to eat.
  • The beginning and end were really great, but it starts to drag in the middle when Saroo grows up and gets depressed and mopey before taking action.
  • Some of the editing was choppy.
  • When you first see Nicole Kidman in that wig, you think, “What the heck?”, but then, when you see the real Sue at the end of the movie, you think, “Oh, Ok.”

Interesting lines:
  • “You weren’t just adopting us, but our past as well.” – Saroo
  • ‘I really hope she’s there.  She needs to see how beautiful you are.” – Sue 
Tips for parents: 
  • There are subtitles in the first half of the movie and again in the end.
  • Pre-marital relations.
  • Your children will see some extreme poverty and, hopefully, be grateful for what they have.


The Founder reveals a story you might not know about McDonalds

Movie Title:   The Founder

Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG-13, 115 minutes

In a Nutshell:  The Golden Arches! You may actually want to swing by McDonald’s after you leave the theater to celebrate the American Dream…either that or ban it because of what Ray Kroc did to the real McDonald brothers in order to build his fast food empire.

It’s a fascinating look at business, persistence, and the history of America’s original fast food chain.  According to the movie, every day, McDonald’s feeds 1% of the world’s population!

Uplifting theme: 
  • Hard work, persistence, the American Dream
  • “They all lack the one thing that makes McDonald’s special…” – Ray
“Which is?” – Dick McDonald
“Even YOU don’t know what it is!” – Ray
“Enlighten me.” – Dick
“It’s not just the system, Dick. It’s the name, that glorious name.  It can be anything you want it to be.  It’s limitless.  It sounds like America….” – Ray
  • If you’re an older entrepreneur, you’ll be inspired by these older men who made it big later in life.

Things I liked:
  • I love what director John Lee Hancock did with the movies Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side.  He has become quite the storyteller when it comes to biopic dramas.
  • Michael Keaton gives a great performance, especially shines when Ray Kroc’s behavior gets worse and worse.  His piano duet Linda Cardellini was charming.
  • The tennis court scene was fascinating to watch.  Brilliant planning, eh?
  • Parks and Recreation: The Complete Series fan favorite Nick Offerman plays Dick McDonald.
  • You get to see video of the real Ray Kroc at the end of the film.  You also get to see pictures of the real people who played secondary roles in this true story, as well as read what happened to them.  Interesting stuff.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some people will be a bit bored. 
  • So, the moral of the story seems to be that you can step on people, be unscrupulous and win in the end...?  You'll leave the theater in a bit of a downer.  It's not a "feel good" story with a happy ending that leaves you morally inspired.
  • So, Ray Kroc was basically a thief…he stole a business and he stole someone’s wife.  He’s a scoundrel, but because Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, you somehow cheer for him during the movie.
  • I kind of felt bad for Laura Dern.  Both she and Ethel Kroc, whom she played, probably both wished they could have been given a bigger part in the McDonald's story.

Interesting lines:
  • “McDonald’s can become America’s new church: feeding bodies and feeding souls, and it ain’t just open on Sundays, boys.” – Ray Kroc
  • “There are many things we could do to make a quick buck, but that doesn’t mean we should.” – Dick McDonald
  • “There’s a wolf in the hen house.  We let him in!” – Dick McDonald
  • Good things come to those who wait.” – Joan Smith (Linda Cardellini)
  • “You think big Joan, don’t you?” – Ray
“Is there any other way to?” – Joan
  • “Contracts are like hearts.  They’re made to be broken.” – Ray
  • “Business is war.” – Ray
  • “We will never beat him.  We will never be rid of him.” – Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch)
  • “So, if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em?” - Dick
  • “You’re not in the food business…you’re in the real estate business.” -  Harry Sonneborn (played by the all grown up B.J. Novak)

Funny lines:
  • “When is enough going to be enough for you?” – Ethel Kroc (Laura Dern)
“Honestly, probably never.” – Ray Kroc
  • “Would you eat at a place named Kroc’s?” - Ray

Tips for parents: 
  • Some profanity, including 1 F-bomb.
  • Those of us who grew up when McDonald's was truly popular (60's & 70's) will enjoy learning more about this American icon.  None of my kids ever liked McDonalds, so the younger generations of viewers will probably only be mildly entertained by this movie. 


Friday, February 3, 2017

The Space Between Us has a lot of empty spaces in theater seats

Movie Title:   The Space Between Us

Grade:   B

Rating:  PG-13, 120 minutes

  • In a Nutshell:  This is kind of a modern version of the old Starman film about STAR-crossed lovers. Writer/Director  Peter Chelsom has given us some truly mediocre films.  Sadly, this is another one.  Fun fact: He voices Centaur in the movie.
For a movie about science, there wasn't a lot of chemistry on the screen.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Our most valuable resource on Earth is courage.
  • “Just because something sounds crazy, doesn’t mean it’s not true.” – Gardner
  • “You don’t know how far away you are until there’s someone you want to be near.” – Gardner
  • What is your favorite thing about Earth?
  • We live on a truly magnificent planet and need to enjoy every minute we get to live on it.
  • Humanity, friendship, loneliness
  • Both Gardner and Tulsa want to feel close to someone and be a part of a family.  In the great universe of space, there is small part of every human's soul to want to belong.

Things I liked:
  • Disney is in love with Britt Robertson.  She’s definitely adorable and makes us believe she’s truly in love with whoever the lead actor is.  Her romantic leads have been much older men in other movies, so I wonder how she felt being with the young Asa Butterfield.  
  • Asa Butterfield does a good job walking “heavy” in the beginning, as he tries to get used to gravity.
  • Carla Gugino looks like she has been living at the gym lately and looks fantastic.  Her character’s name is Kendra.  If I had a daughter, I would have named her Kendra. 
  • There are some really beautiful images of outer space, Earth, and everything in between.
  • You can SEE the sonic boom as the spaceship takes off through the atmosphere. That was cool.
  • That clear laptop used by Sarah’s brother (played by Colin Egglesfield) looked awesome.
  • There is a tiny twist that helped save the ending for me.
  • It cracked me up when Gardner was in Las Vegas (where I live) and made the following accurate observation, “It’s like a big toy.  It’s not real.”  True.  My oldest son didn’t grow up in Las Vegas and calls the city a “gold-encrusted turd.” 
  • I liked when Tulsa looked up at all of the hot air balloons in the sky and finally grinned, recognizing that this earth we live on is pretty special.
  • Self-driving car!  Yes!
  • Aurora Borealis!  That’s on my Bucket List!
  • The stunt double for both Britt Robertson and Carla Gugino is named Trina!  Woohoo!  Great name!
  • It’s appropriate that the name of the Mars project is Genesis.
  • Did you notice the pretty frosted glass chairs in the hangar at the beginning of the movie? 
  • I chuckled out loud when I saw “Kick me” written on the back of Gardner’s robot.
Things I didn’t like:
  • It almost pulled tears out of my eyes, but my tear ducts felt too manipulated and refused to cooperate with the director's plan.
  • Tulsa and Gardner go on a romantic crime spree, stealing cars and other things while they try to run from their "mean" pursuers.
  • Quite a few parts of the story line are absolutely ridiculous.
  • This movie had a LOT of very young-looking Extras, which made it look like a movie, rather than real life.
  • It always bugs me when the movie trailer has lines or moments that never actually show up in the movie.  That being said, the trailer pretty much sums up the movie, minus the small twist at the end.

Interesting lines:
  • “The world doesn’t give you exactly what you want.” – Tulsa
  • “Just because people lied to you before doesn’t mean I’m lying to you.” – Gardner
  • “We’re running out of time and Mother Nature does not negotiate.” – Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman)

Funny lines:
  • “I’m on a road trip with an insane person.” – Tulsa
  • “You’re taller than I thought you’d be.” – Tulsa
“You’re meaner than I thought you’d be.” - Gardner

Romantic lines:
  • What’s your favorite thing about earth?” – Gardner
“You are, Gardner.” – Tulsa
  • “How did you become more beautiful in 20 seconds?” - Gardner
  • “You make me human.” – Gardner

Tips for parents:   

  • Pre-marital relations between teenagers.
  • Teens steal cars and participate in other illegal and irresponsible behavior, all free of consequences.
  • Discussion about foster care and Social Services.
  • Pre-teens who often feel disenfranchised or misunderstood will enjoy this film.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Booze at theaters?

Today's report on Movies in the News:

Booze is the next step in cinemas' fight against flagging attendance. For decades, local and state laws prevented movie chains from offering alcoholic beverages in regular auditoriums. Only dine-in theaters could offer booze by securing a restaurant liquor license, while some high-end cinemas — including the Landmark and ArcLight in L.A. — offered beer and wine in designated 21-and-over auditoriums. 

During the past two years, 32 states have relaxed their laws, allowing theaters to serve alcohol in any auditorium. "It is the fastest-growing amenity in our industry," says George Patterson, senior vp food and beverage at AMC. "Dollar for dollar, alcohol doesn't cannibalize candy, soda or popcorn. If I put a bar in, I can almost guarantee my food and beverage revenue will go up. Over 70 percent of our guests are over the age of 21."