Monday, April 24, 2017

Salt and Fire showcases acting as flat as the salt fields in Bolivia

Movie Title:  
Salt and Fire

Grade:  C+

Rating:  It is posted as NR (Not Rated), but I would give it a PG-13 for some violence and people in perilous situations.  98 minutes long.

In a Nutshell: Filmed in Bolivia, this eco-drama was shot in only 16 days and features Michael Shannon.   Salt and Fire is named for the famous and expanding Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, and the volcano nearby.  The location is stunning, but the acting is as flat as the salt fields.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.” – a parrot quoting Ecclesiastes in the Bible
  • “Truth is the only daughter of time.” – Matt Riley (Michael Shannon).  The original quote has been attributed to several people, most commonly linked to Aulus Gellius.
  • “It’s ok to be afraid of the dark, but the real tragedy in life is when men are afraid of the light.” – Matt Riley, quoting his grandmother
  • Personal and social responsibility
  • Nature, saving the environment
  • Perspective

Things I liked:
  • Director and writer Werner Herzog gets a cameo as one of the passengers on the plane near the beginning of the movie.  I always get a kick out of directors who slip into their movies.
  • The cinematography of the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia was captivating.
  • Gael Garcia Bernal’s character was entertaining.  I would have liked to see more of him in the film.
  • I thought the scene with the contorted, anamorphic artwork was really interesting, requiring the tall, reflective cylinders in order to see the paintings.  I’ve never seen that before!
  • The cloister painting at Santissima Trinita in Rome was fascinating.  From afar, you see one picture, but as you walk closer, the image completely changes. I've been to Rome twice (I LOVE ITALY!!!), but I missed this fascinating mural on both trips.  Next time!  The reference of this art piece illustrates a theme in this movie: perspective.
  • I loved the goofy photographs they took on the salt flats.  The salt flats are the highlight of the movie.
  • Most Americans have never seen the beautiful Veronica Ferres in anything before, although she has been acting in Germany for many years.  Sometimes her acting seemed very stiff, but she was believable at other times.  She has such wonderfully pouty lips.  She was genuinely sweet with the two little blind boys.
  • There was a scene where they went to see an old train stuck in the desert, Herzog's metaphor for mankind and civilization.



Things I didn’t like:
  • Some of the acting was just terrible.  
  • Some of the music choices were quite odd. 
  • The writing is VERY forced.
  • Michael Shannon, who is normally very good, seemed extremely stiff.  Poor writing does that to even good actors.  Too bad.
  • The story is just silly.  Kidnapping was simply not needed and added a false, weak sense of urgency.  It was more annoying than anything else.  
  • Some of the characters are absolutely ridiculous, like Lawrence Krauss, whose acting was dreadful and whose existence in the story was dumbfounding.  The whole wheelchair thing was just bizarre and made Matt Riley seem even more unhinged.  And he has two names.  Just weird.  And those goggles at the end?  I know he was meant to provide some comic relief, but it fell salt flat.
  • The film is listed as a thriller on some web sites, but it is far from that.  Most viewers will be bored.
  • The movie was adapted from video game writer Tom Bissell's short story Aral, which proves, again, that not all video games translate into good movies.
 Funny lines:
  • “This is the mother of all diarrhea.” – Dr. Arnold Meier (Volker Michalowski)
  • “I only use the wheelchair when I’m tired of life.” – Krauss/Aristidis

Interesting lines:
  • There is no reality. There are only views of reality, only perceptions...all collective anxieties condensed into conspiracy theories.” – Matt Riley
  • I think I was meant to live a different life.” – Matt
  • “I’m trying to bring who I really am into focus.” – Matt 


Tips for parents: 
  • No profanity.
  • Most kids will lose interest after only a few minutes.  Skip forward to the scenes that show the amazing salt flats 


MOVIE REVIEW MOM

@trinaboice 

The Lost City of Z explores the jungles of South America and the mind

Movie Title:
The Lost City of Z

Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG-13, 140 minutes

In a Nutshell:  This savage story features the true tale of Percival Fawcett and his dream to discover The Lost City of Z along the Amazon river in the early 1900’s.  

Also explored is what makes people tick, their dreams, motivations, and how they hold on to hope.

Based on David Grann’s best-seller The Lost City of Z, it has the look and feel of one of those old-time exploration dramas and will remind you a little bit of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Uplifting theme: 
  • Hope
  • Discovery
  • “To dream, to seek the unknown, to look for what is beautiful is its own reward.” –  Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller)
  • “We are all made of the same clay.” – Percy (Charlie Hunnam)
  • “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” - Nina Fawcett  

Things I liked:

  • Good for British actor Charlie Hunnam!  He did an excellent job in portraying a complex character who is brave, hopeful, and even reckless.  He also stars in the upcoming King Arthur: Legend of The Sword: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack movie.  He has been in several movies and TV shows, but people are just now starting to really take notice of his wide range of talent.  As the newest hunk to get attention, he doesn't take his shirt off in this film, but he does in King Arthur, ladies.
  • There is an interesting USA vs. England dimension as the two countries raced to explore and discover the world first in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Twilight fans of Robert Pattinson will see him in a new light if they even recognize him at all underneath all that beard and hair.
  • I loved that Percy became quite humble and respectful of the land and people he explored, as opposed to his contemporaries, both American and British who arrogantly called the natives "savages."
  • While Sienna Miller plays the dutiful wife, she also has some great moments when she reveals graceful wisdom and insight.
  • Spiderman!  Tom Holland, who stars in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming - The Art of the Movie, does a great job as Percy's eager son.
  • There's a smoky, old-fashioned air to how the movie is filmed that adds to the eery feeling.
  • At the end of the movie, text on the screen tells you how the story ended. 
  • It's a fascinating character study on what makes men cowards and others brave.



Things I didn’t like:
  • Some of the dialogue is pretty weak. The movie was written and directed by James Gray.
  • It drags on a bit.  Experts who like that might call it "methodical pacing."
  • It's really hard to avoid people suffering in a variety of ways in an exploration story like this.  Wounds, illness, fighting, drowning, being eaten by piranha, arrows, sacrifice, etc.
  • I never saw a single trailer for this movie before it played.  The marketing was extremely thin.

Interesting lines:
  • “All that matters now is the future.” – Percy
  • “Nothing will happen to us that is not our destiny.” – Percy
  • “Have fun and be bold.” – Nina  (that's the same advice I give my sons!)
  • “So much of life is a mystery, my boy.  We know so little of this world.” – Percy
  • “It’s not possible to choose a safe passage through life.” – Jack Fawcett (Tom Holland II)
  • “We’ve never let fear determine our future.” – Nina
  • ‘It’s his essential nature.  Who am I to betray that?” – Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller) when she decided to let her son go on a voyage with his father
  • “Peace means only that nothing will change.” – Spanish guy at beginning
  • “Am I a fool to leave my family for this place?” - Percy


Tips for parents: 
  • Topless native women
  • Profanity
  • There are subtitles you’ll need to read to kids who can’t keep up.
  • Violence and brutality.  Some people die in horrible ways. 


MOVIE REVIEW MOM

@trinaboice 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Born in China is timed perfectly for Earth Day

Movie Title: 
Born in China

Grade:  A-

Rating:  G, 79 minutes  

In a Nutshell:  Disney Nature presents a beautiful look at some fascinating creatures born in China.  

Narrated by John Krasinski (The Office: The Complete Series) , this eco- documentary illustrates the circle of life and introduces the world to some stunning locations and animals that most people will never get a chance to see in real life.

I’ve been to China twice this past year and have fallen in love with its culture, topography, people, art, language, and food.  It is an amazing country and this film offers a deserving spotlight.  The film is full of “Awwww” moments.

Timed perfectly for Earth Day 2017, a portion of ticket sales will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Family
  • The circle of life and death
  • The beauty and duality of nature: freedom vs. security
  • Each of us is a part of a much larger story.

Things I liked:
  • John Krasinski offers a familiar, comfortable voice to walk us through the lives of the featured animals.  He does a great job, although the script could have been even better.
  • The golden snub-nosed monkeys steal the show.  They’re gorgeous and hilarious, providing delightful monkey mischief.
  • One thing Disney Nature does very well is introduce children to things they could never see in a zoo.
  • The Tibetan antelope, called chiru, provides the film with some epic moments and cinematography.  My question: why don’t the males accompany the females on their birthing journey to protect them?
  • A crane in China is a symbol of longevity and fortune.  It is believed that when a crane takes flight, it is carrying an animal’s soul to another world.  That theme and sentiment and used at the beginning and end of the movie. I love it when a film ties ends together.
  • How do the photographers get those shots?????   It’s pretty incredible.
  • You get to see gorgeous red pandas, black and white pandas, snow leopards, antelope, and monkeys.  All adorable.





Things I didn’t like:
  • This version of Disney Nature doesn’t offer anything particular new to the nature story narrative.
  • I wish we could have learned more about the animals, more facts and information.
  • Humans project their feelings and descriptions on what’s going on with the animals.  Who knows if any of that is true.
  • It’s very predictable.

Interesting lines:
  • “China is a land of myth and mystery.” – John Krasinski
  • “Each life is just one beat in the beautiful cyclical rhythm.” – John Krasinski

Tips for parents: 
  • There are several scenes when animals and birds prey on other animals.  Some animals die.  Children need to learn about life and death, and this movie does not shy away from the brutal realities.
  • Some fighting and bullying.
  • No profanity.  Thank goodness, animals don’t swear.
  • It’s not all happy and beautiful.  There are some sad moments.
  • You see a mother give birth and later nurse babies.  Your kids may have questions…

Click here to pre-order a copy of  Disneynature: Born in China (With Bonus Content) for your family's home entertainment library.  



MOVIE REVIEW MOM

@trinaboice 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Smurfs. Blue. Meh.


Movie Title:  Smurfs: The Lost Village

Grade:  C

Rating:  PG, 1 hour 30 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Little ones will be entertained while parents snooze during this Sony Picture animation.  The cast is a pretty impressive collection of movie stars, Grammy winners, comedians, and even a celebrity chef (Gordon Ramsey), including Julia Roberts, Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Mandy Patinkin, Meghan Trainor, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, Danny Pudi, Ellie Kemper, and so many more.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Friendship, loyalty, kindness, love
  • Labels and names
  • Let people be who they are
  • Girl power

Things I liked:
  • Demi Lovato plays Smurfette.  I wish she would have sung more.
  • The talented Rainn Wilson (The Office: The Complete Series) voices the bad guy, Gargamel.  I’m surprised he hasn’t been cast in more animated movies.
  • Jack McBrayer has the perfect Smurf voice.
  • I love to see Mandy Patinkin in anything.  My all-time favorite line of his comes from another one of my all-time favorite movies The Princess Bride: “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepared to die!”  My family recites that often.
  • Michelle Rodriguez voices “SmurfStorm” and stars in The Fate of the Furious.  You can see my movie review of Fate of the Furious here. Congrats to her for having two movies out in theaters at the same time!
  • It’s extremely colorful.
  • Lots of action.
  • Some of the creatures are pretty adorable.
  • There isn't blatant merchandising by Sony like in the last film. 



Things I didn’t like:
  • I really didn't want to see this movie.  The last ones were so bad. This one just didn’t grab me either, although it was better.  I’ve just never gotten into any of the Smurf movies for some reason.  I know some adults are true blue fans.   For me, zzzzz….
  • It’s extremely predictable.
  • SPOILER:  fake death scene, obligatory dance scene at the end of the movie.
  • Quite a few scenes looked like they were trying to copy the magic of Avatar.
  • It’s really hard to tell the various Smurfs apart sometimes.
  • It’s super contrived.  It has all of the elements that usually create the magical formula for animation hits.  There’s just something missing....something lost....a village maybe?  ha ha

Funny lines:
  • “It’s like a workout for my eyeballs.” – Smurf (which one?)
  • “I’m really freaking out you guys!” – Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer)
  • “Dang, girl smurfs mean business.” – Clumsy Smurf
Tips for parents: 
  • ZERO profanity.   Yay!
  • Some mild fighting
  • Expected butt jokes and some other rude, childish humor.
  • Safe family entertainment.





@trinaboice 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Before I Fall is Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls

Movie Title:  Before I Fall

Grade:  B

Rating:  PG-13, 99 minutes

In a Nutshell: Teenage girls.  Squee!  (I’m so glad I have 4 sons.  Translation = no exhausting drama.)  

This is sort of a teenage girl version of  Groundhog Day (one of my all-time favorites.)  Another film that did the repeat-each-day format well was Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow . 

This thought-provoking flick is based on the young-adult novel Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (2010-03-02).

Uplifting theme: 
  • Become who you are.  (on a poster in Kent's bedroom)
  • Friendship, kindness, not judging others
  • On a bathroom wall at Sam’s school, someone wrote “Only those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible.”
  • “Just focus on that one good thing and you see where it leads you.” – Mrs. Kingston (Jennifer Beals)
  • Cherish every day you have.
  • “What you do today matters…in the minute and maybe into infinity.” –  Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch)
  • What do you want to be remembered for?

Things I liked:
  • Zoey Deutch is lovely and has a bright future in films if she wants one.  
  • Adults will most likely roll their eyes, but for teens who are developing their moral compass, it just might give them pause to reflect on their own behavior and attitudes.
  • Teenage girls need to remember that their mothers often have the same insecurities that they do.  It was sweet when Samantha told her mother she thought she was beautiful.
  • The English literature teacher (played by Diego Boneta) asks the students if they know what Sisyphus means, but you never get to hear him actually explain it.  It means a difficult or futile endeavor, named after Sisyphus, a son of Aeolus and ruler of Corinth, who was punished for his trickery by being forced by the gods to roll a stone to the top of a slope, only to have it roll back down for eternity.  Samantha has a similar challenge of pushing through some problems that seem to go on forever.
  • This is the perfect movie for teenage girls to watch at a slumber party.  They'll all be hugging and crying and vowing to be more kind by the end.
  • The movie was filmed in only 24 days, which isn't too surprising, since so many of the scenes are told over and over.
  • Halston Sage is the perfect mean girl.  She and Logan Miller were both in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.   
  • The little girl who plays Sam's sister (played by Erica Tremblay) is the real life sister of the little boy who stars in Room (Jacob Tremblay).  They sure look alike!


Things I didn’t like:
  • Elody  (Medalion Rahimi) says, “No glove. No love” and hands Samantha a condom since it’s Valentine’s Day.  As a Mormon, I'm very old-fashioned that way.
  • Juliet texts and drives. 
  • It takes Samantha a very long time before she decides to take bold action.

    • Samantha accuses Lindsay of having all kinds of venereal diseases to Lindsay replies, “At least I’m not still a virgin.”  What a ridiculous thing to say, as if being a slut is better than being a virgin?  Our world sure is backwards.
    • Why would Sam even want to hang out with such mean girls?  
    • It makes me really glad I'm not in high school again.
    • There isn’t much humor.
    • It's pretty slow-moving.




Interesting lines:
  • “If I’m going to relive the same day over and over, I want it to be a worthy day, and not just for me.” – Sam
  • “I truly understand how to live this day.” - Sam

Tips for parents: 
  • A girl lifts up her shirt to show her bra.
  • Discussion of sex and STD’s.
  • Some of the teenagers are really mean and bully others.
  • Lots of inappropriate behavior.
  • Teens drinking alcohol at a party.
  • Lots of profanity, including an F-bomb.
  • There is a graphic suicide and several bad car crashes. 




@trinaboice 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Fate of the Furious is fast fun for true fans

Movie Title:  The Fate of the Furious

Grade:  B

Rating:  PG-13, 136 minutes

In a Nutshell:  It’s fast.  It’s furious.  The franchise is back.  

I was kind of over the whole The Fast and the Furious saga until…Charlize Theron.  I’ve always thought she was so gorgeous ever since I first saw her in Mighty Joe Young. I was curious how she was going to turn Dom away from his family in this movie's plot.   

Everything about this movie is high octane and ridiculously over-the-top, just the way fans of this franchise like it.  If you’re a fan, you’ll get a kick out of this new addition.  No, it's not going to win any Oscar's, but it's pretty good fun.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “You make a deal, you gotta live up to it.” – Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)
  • Family
  • Obligation, accountability, respect

Things I liked:
  • The chemistry of this “family” is undeniable.  This installment features Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Elsa Pataky, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Scott Eastwood.
  • The cast's quick one-liners and jabs at each other are entertaining as always.
  • You get to take a little trip to Havana, Cuba in the beginning of the movie.
  • So funny watching The Rock do the fierce Hakka dance with a bunch of little soccer girls.
  • Helen Mirren just made the franchise better.  Rumor has it that she lobbied for a role in the movie because she loves racing so much.  I love her in everything she does.
  • It’s fun to watch Scott Eastwood’s career unfold.  You know he’s the legendary Clint Eastwood’s son, right? 
  • Tough bald guy banter.  Ha ha
  • The set pieces are as gigantic as Dwayne Johnson’s biceps.  
  • The stunts are OFF THE CHAIN!
  • SPOILER: I never really thought about how self-driving cars could be hacked into to create havoc.  Interesting, right?  There’s an awesomely fun and destructive scene with a bunch of them on New York City streets.
  • Some of the action sequences are soooooo impressively long.
  • I think it's funny that Kurt Russell's character name is "Mr. Nobody."  His assistant, played by Scott Eastwood, is called "Little Nobody."
  • Jason Statham has some absolutely great moments with The Rock, Helen Mirren, and a little baby.  


Things I didn’t like:
  • Lots of butt cheeks and scantily clad women.
  • Some of the characters talk about being free, with no obligations to anyone, as if that’s the ultimate form of happiness.  Thankfully, the ultimate theme of the movie is that it’s family that gives life meaning.
  • The plot is extremely predictable.  There is nothing super surprising about how the story is going to play out, but the ride is pretty doggone fun.
  • So many things are just so unrealistic that if you require that in a movie, you'll hate every minute of this.




Funny lines:
  • “I will beat you like a Cherokee drum.” – Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson whose arms are ridiculously massive while he holds them up during this line.)
  • “We’re gonna need a bigger truck.” – Hobbs
  • “Your team is about to go up against the one thing they can’t handle.” – Cipher (Charlize Theron)
“What’s that?” – Dom 
“You.” –  Cipher
  • “Manis and pedis later on at the mall.” – Hobbs
  • “It’s neon orange.  The U.S. space station could see it coming.” – Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood)
  • “Ouch.” – Cipher
  • “What’s it gonna be, Rook?  Are you gonna close your eyes on this one too?  Pray that the Apocalypse doesn’t come knocking on your mama’s front door? Or are you gonna saddle up and be a man and save the entire Gxdxxmn world?” – Hobbs
  • “Why are you always yelling?” – Hobbs
  • “Time to get my young Selfie levels up!” – Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson)
“You realize this is classified, right?” – Little Nobody
“Not today!” -Roman

Interesting lines:
  • “See, that’s the funny thing about fate: it’s cunning.  It can bring you beautiful things and it can also bring you moments like this…” –  Cipher  
  • “Have you heard of choice theory, Dom?  There’s a bunch of axioms, but only two you really need to concern yourself with: 1) The only person’s behavior we can control is our own, and 2) The only thing we can truly give another person is information…” – Cipher 



Tips for parents: 
  • Lots of profanity, including an F-bomb, surprisingly by the lovely Helen Mirren.
  • There are some subtitles that you’ll have to read to kids who can’t read fast.
  • As expected in a movie designed for men, there are a lot of scantily clad women.
  • TONS of explosions and MASSIVE amounts of destruction.
  • Tons of violence in many forms, including hand-to-hand combat, shootings, stabbings, and beatings. 


Did you miss some of the previous movies? You can start here: The Fast and the Furious
Fast & Furious (2009)
Fast & Furious 6
2 Fast 2 Furious
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast Five (Extended Version) Furious 7

@trinaboice 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Going In Style showcases 3 legendary actors with charming chemistry

Movie Title:  Going In Style

Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG-13, 97 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Face it, the cast is a bunch of adorable, lovable, and legendary guys: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin.   They have fantastic chemistry and are the highlight of the film.  They ARE the film.

Going In Style is a remake of the old 1979 movie, yet the story still has relevance.  You’ll be entertained and walk out of the theater with a goofy grin on your face.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Life-long friends
  • Loyalty, family, friendship
  • “One can’t get enough time.” – Joe (Michael Caine)
  • “Do you want to drift off into the sunset or go out with a bang?” – Joe
  • “There’s always another way.” – Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz

Things I liked:
  • Christopher Lloyd has a small role, but he does a great job and steals the scenes he’s in.  I don’t like seeing him get so old, but it happens to all of us.
  • We haven’t seen Ann Margaret in a while.  I think the first time I ever saw her in a movie was in Bye Bye Birdie.  I thought she was mesmerizing.  What incredible, long careers all of these actors have had.
  • Pie!
  • It’s entertaining to see how they mastermind their big crime.  Even funnier is watching them try to steal some groceries to get their feet wet in their new life of crime.  Kids, don't try this!
  • Have you noticed that Morgan Freeman has now been in 3 movies with the same theme that he’s dying and now needs to do something crazy?   Check out The Bucket List   and  Last Vegas.   See?   They're both fun flicks too.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie suggests that all banks are evil and heartless; therefore, it’s OK to commit crime.   It is NOT OK to commit a crime.  When people have nothing to lose, they do bad and/or illegal things.  Having challenges in life still doesn’t give us permission to break the law.
  • It’s always a strange sensation when the audience wants the people in the movie to do something bad.  Does that mean we’re living variously through them? Do we want to be able to justify or rationalize our own bad behavior?  What does that say about us? 
  • It’s not laugh-out-loud super funny, but it’s still charming.  The older crowd will definitely be laughing the loudest.



Funny lines:
  • “This isn’t an admission of guilt.  I’m just tired.” – Albert (Alan Arkin)
  • “Take my number.  Things happen.” – Mitzi (Siobhan Fallon Hogan)  My family still imitates her funny accent when she said "sugar water" in Men In Black 

Interesting lines:
  • “We’re friends, Willy.  We’re supposed to look out for each other, aren’t we?  Then, let’s do it.” –  Joe (Michael Caine)
  • It’s a culture’s duty to take care of its elderly.” – Jesus (John Ortiz)   

Tips for parents: 
  • Some profanity, including one F-bomb
  • You might have to tell the kids about who the Rat Pack was.
  • Some suggestive material and pre-marital relations.
  • Medical marijuana discussion

If you're interested in seeing the original Going in Style (1979) with George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, you can actually still get it on Amazon!   


@trinaboice