Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Movie Review: Tuck Everlasting

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Disney
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Romance
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 14+

Summary -
Winnie Foster is tired of her stuffy, rich life. She has been pampered and prodded into what society considers womanhood, but she feels confined, like she's never lived. Finally, she's had enough and runs away, only to stumble into the Tucks, who have a secret that they can't risk having discovered.
Jesse Tuck and his brother Miles kidnap Winnie and bring her back to their parents, and the Tucks, unsure of what to do with the girl, keep her as a permanent guest.
But one man knows the Tucks' secret - they became immortal after drinking magical water. And this man means to exploit the secret for the good of society (and his own pocketbook).

The Bad - (In chronological order)
 - Winnie disobeys her mother and plays baseball, and she refuses to be sent to boarding school.
 - Jesse endangers his family's secret against his father's orders.
 - The villain remarks to Winnie, "You find trapping suitors more interesting anyway."
 - Winnie runs away from her family.
 - The Tucks kidnap Winnie.
 - Miles is surly and grumpy. He causes a lot of conflict within his family.
 - We (and several male characters) see Winnie in her (1800's) underclothes.
 - The villain is searching to sell immorality, and admits to a priest/preacher that he is playing God.
    He unashamedly takes pride in this blasphemy.
 - Jesse falls in love with Winnie almost immediately. While their romance is entirely innocent, several of the situations they get themselves into are not. They go swimming together (in their underclothes), and Jesse helps Winnie to swim. Winnie dances suggestively for Jesse, though it's obvious that he has no bad intentions during this scene. They spend the night in the woods together, talking for the most part. They kiss several times, but are interrupted by Miles. This (innocent) night in the woods is mentioned later, and out of context the comment is inappropriate.
 - Miles gambles and is obviously drunk. He cheats in the card game.
 - We are shown various images of non-bloody accidents.
 - Miles' wife left him because she though he was in league with the devil.
 - The Tucks are accused of witchcraft.
 - Jesse is shot by the villain.
 - Mrs. Tuck kills the villain in self-defense.
 - Mr. and Mrs. Tuck are sentenced to hanging.
 - Winnie lies in order to help the Tucks escape.
 - Jesse and Miles purposely get shot so that they can pretend to be "undead".
 - Swearwords are limited to one heck, one h**l (in context), and one use of God's name in vain.

The Good -
Tuck Everlasting is essentially about growing up; it explores some really cool ideas, like the effects of immortality, the importance of living life to the fullest, the value of old age, and the beauty of responsibility. And for the most part, the movie comes to the right conclusion about all of these things.
The Tucks see immortality as a curse. Miles especially is bitter about his fate, but the other Tucks are more accepting of their situation. Mr. Tuck tries to explain to Winnie the many downfalls of immortality, and urges her to live her life instead of just existing, like the Tucks must.
Jesse, completely in love with Winnie, doesn't see the uselessness of immortality, and urges her to drink the magic water so that they can live together forever. Winnie is obviously tempted, but the knowledge that she will never be able to actually live the life she has been given stops her.

Conclusion -
The movie ends with Jesse, dressed in modern clothes and driving a motorcycle, approaching a gravestone marked "Winifred Foster - Beloved Wife, Beloved Mother."
When I first watched this movie a few years ago, I was inclined to be more in sympathy with Jesse than with Winnie. How could she abandon him!? Why didn't she drink the water like he asked!?
But as I sat watching it the second time, I understood Winnie's decision.
While the Tucks lived on and on, forever, Winnie chose death. It's a strange thought, but what point is there to living if we don't end up dying?
During the movie, I cringed at the acting and the awkward love story and the overlong nature scenes, but thinking back on it, Tuck Everlasting is probably one of my favorite movies. It's incredibly beautiful, and even the sad ending isn't depressing, but rather a wonderful reminder.
"Be afraid of the unlived life."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Title: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Children's fiction, animals, comedy, adventure
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: Children's Fiction
Age Group: 4+

Farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are not nice men. They are fat, stinky, and rude. Mr. Fox is able to steal from them every night, but after a while they decide they simply will not tolerate that anymore. With Mr. Fox, Mrs. Fox, and their children trapped in their hole by the farmers, Mr. Fox must think of some way to get his family food before they all starve. Not to mention all the other animals that have been affected by the complete destruction of the hill Mr. Fox lives in. How will Mr. Fox save his family and neighbors? Will the farmers catch him and shoot him like they plan?

Word of Warning
  • The farmers are rude, fat, and one of them drinks hard apple cider. At first it is not entirely clear that this is alcoholic, but later in the story we find that he apparently drinks too much (we are left to assume he gets drunk).
  • Mr. Fox is a thief, as foxes are. But he takes it to a whole new level. At first, he simply steals what he needs. Then, he steals an entire feast, managing to make the farmers look like fools in the process. Unfortunately, by doing this he saves his neighbors and family from starvation, and looks like a hero.
  • Mr. Fox and a few others are happy to drink cider (Mr. Fox does stop one of his children from doing so). The rat gets drunk on cider. This is portrayed as comical but also distasteful and not something to be done.
  • Originally, the other animals object to Mr. Fox's thefts, but they are more than happy to feast with him.
  • The farmers are determined to shoot Mr. Fox and even shoot his tail off (he does, of course, survive this). Apparently they had originally promised the tail to a woman who works for them, but she is consoled by the offer of his head, stuffed and hanging in her house.
  • The fox family is in danger of death by starvation, shooting, and being dug out of their home.
  • Mr. Fox is a hero
My Thoughts
In reality, there really is no problem with the thefts of Mr. Fox. After all, that's what foxes do. Foxes are animals, and thus cannot have a moral life, which also means that theft in their case is not wrong. But this isn't reality. When Mr. Fox somehow musters the free will to start stealing more than he needs, he crosses the line that kept him safe from having sinned by his theft.
The biggest problem? He's a hero! He saves his wife, young children, and all the neighbors (badgers, rats, rabbits, etc). Not exactly the reward we want for the character who is a slippery thief.

Still, the story is cute, exciting, and relatively innocent. Perhaps a discussion on alternatives to Mr. Fox's excessive theft could be a good way to follow up a reading of this book. It was, after all, a great adventure. Exciting adventures are hard to find for this age range, but this book here is one of the few in existence.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Esio Trot

Title: Esio Trot
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Children's, comedy, animals, romance
My Rating ***
Official Rating: Children's Fiction
Age Group: 4+
Poor old Mr. Hoppy is in love with the little old woman who lives just one balcony below his. The only problem is that Mrs. Silver (a widow) loves someone else: Alfie. Mr. Hoppy is afraid to speak up and has no idea what to do. Indeed, whatever is Mr. Hoppy to do about Alfie?

Word of Warning:
  • Mr. Hoppy's solution is to speak to Mrs. Silver about Alfie (her tortoise). He lies, convincing her that saying certain words backward will make Alfie grow bigger.
  • When said backward, "up" sounds like "poo," something Mrs. Silver is slightly concerned about.
  • Mr. Hoppy buys more than one hundred tortoises and replaces Alfie with one slightly bigger, tricking Mrs. Silver into thinking that Alfie has grown. He continues to do this, then even takes a step backward in size, before Mrs. Silver is content.
  • Mrs. Silver takes notice of Mr. Hoppy thanks to the kindness he has done her.
  • Mr. Hoppy marries Mrs. Silver (who, apparently, was also in love with him) and never tells her the truth about Alfie (Alfie does have a good life, as noted at the end of the book).
My Thoughts
Honestly, I was laughing the entire way through this short little book. Granted, the characters don't learn a moral lesson, but the story is funny and relatively innocent. Perhaps a brief discussion on "lying never pays" would be a good follow-up to a reading of the book.
It's short, it's funny, and it's appropriate for children. That can be incredibly hard to find at times.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TV Show Review: The Lone Ranger (1949-57)

(Please note that as I am not reviewing specific episodes, I will be commenting on trends that most of the episodes followed.)

Title: The Lone Ranger
Author: N/A
Genre: Western
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: PG? I don't think it has one
Age Group: 6+
John Reid and his brother, along with other Texas Rangers, are ambushed by Cavendish in a canyon. All are killed.
When Tonto the Native American rides through, he sees the bodies and is horrified. He begins to bury them out of respect and finds something very strange: one of them is still alive.
Tonto nurses John Reid back to health and Reid decides he must put a stop to the evil deeds of people like Cavendish. In order to do this, he must put on a mask, get a new horse, and find some ammo. Thus, the Lone Ranger is born. He has a white hat, a black mask, shoots silver bullets, and rides a white horse with Tonto by his side (riding Scout)
They ride for justice.

Word of Warning
  • This is the wild west. People are shot, though the death count is low compared to most westerns.
  • The Lone Ranger is disguised and refuses to tell anyone who he is. He allows people to believe that John Reid is dead.
  • The Lone Ranger shoots, but not to kill. Instead, he shoots to disarm his opponent and not injure him (if possible).
  • People are in danger, shot at, and in need of assistance (thus the appearance of the Lone Ranger).
  • Animals die, things burn, people are hurt.
  • There is very little romance when it comes to the episodes (mainly because the main characters encounter one or two in the course of the entire show). Granted, it does exist, but if I remember correctly, it is rarely (if ever) problematic.
  • Note that while danger does occur, it is usually portrayed in a rather tame way compared to what is shown on the screen today.
  • This may be one of the cleanest westerns ever written and aired.
My Thoughts:
Appropriate for children, the show attracted a variety of ages, though one did not often see the older fans running around the house shouting "Hi-yo Silver, away!", chattering about using silver bullets, or using the words "ke-mo sah-bee" as often as possible.
The Lone Ranger is a super hero of sorts. He wears a mask and rode about the west coming to the rescue of those in need who could get help from no one else. He always succeed, though it is not always clear that this will be the case. He has almost no character flaws. The Lone Ranger is the western's Superman. And that's not so bad, because Superman was one of the few superheroes who was truly good. Bringing an exciting experience to the screen, then, is this superhero of the west: The Lone Ranger--a good man. A true man.
What more could we possibly want?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Movie Review: Gremlins

Title: Gremlins
Author: N/A
Genre: Horror, comedy, fantasy,
My Rating: ***
Official Rating PG-13
Age Group: 14+
They don't like bright lights. Don't get them wet. And do not feed them after midnight.
Of course, being a horror film, each of these rules is broken, and in the order they are given.
Billy's father brings home a strange pet for his son's Christmas present, along with those rules. Accidents happen, the rules are broken, and suddenly the entire town is in danger of being destroyed. Can Billy stop the little creatures before it's too late?

Word of Warning:
The PG-13 rating on this film is almost comical, considering what it takes to get such a rating today. Even so, there are some things one should be aware of when watching this movie. People are injured (blood, scrapes, and bandages with blood seeping through them). A woman flies out of a window and dies. A man is killed by injection in a science lab. A man and his wife are assumed killed by a bulldozer (off screen, and in the second movie it turns out they survived). Cars crash, a building blows up, and little monsters mutate and multiply. One little monster is killed by a blender (green goo splatters the kitchen), another is stabbed to death (left on the counter wiggling a bit before dying), and a third explodes in a microwave. A little monster falls into the water, which results in his flesh decaying (we see various quick shots of this) and him eventually becoming a pile of bones that melts away into bubbles. A monster is shot, a girl is shot at, a boy is shot at, and various objects are thrown at people. A boy barely misses getting killed by a sawblade, a chainsaw, a dart (which gets him in the arm), and various other things which are thrown at him.

The minor problems are lying to hide how bad an inventor's inventions really are, drunkenness (mostly by little monsters, but one human man gets drunk as well), swindling people into buying worthless inventions, and a crazy bar scene (involving the monsters).
The words a**hole, d***, and hell are used, as well as someone using Jesus's name in vain. Most (if not all) are in the same scene.
There is one chaste kiss.

A girl hates Christmas, and it is not until much later in the movie that we find out her father tried to climb down the chimney on Christmas Eve when she was nine, slipped, broke his neck, and died. She and her mother found out a few days later when they smelled something strange and called the fire department. The scene this is revealed in is rather dark and creepy, but almost so over done that it's comical. The challenge is, should that really be comical?

Much of what I listed above would normally be enough to make me not watch a movie, but because of the comedy aspect of the film, these parts are not nearly as gruesome as they would usually be.

My Thoughts
Honestly, this was refreshing. And let me be the first to say, I do not usually enjoy horror movies. This is probably the first one I've watched, and I really don't plan to watch any more. But because this one was made at a time when wired puppets were used for little monsters, the problems the film presented were also not all that bad. And the puppets? Very well done. Did not bother me at all.

I might not watch this again in the near future, simply because it's not a genre I tend to enjoy. Still, the movie felt simple (funny, it wasn't for the time!) and in that respect it was wonderful. A boy risks his life to fix a problem he caused (although not single-handedly). He cares for his parents, his family is close, his romance is completely acceptable (and very sweet), and he has a great adventure. It doesn't need anything else.

Because isn't that what makes a good movie?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

Title: Despicable Me 2
Author: N/A
Genre: Science Fiction, Crime Fighting, Comedy
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 8+

Summary: Gru retired from crime a few years ago, after stealing the moon (and putting it back) and choosing life as a father of three adopted girls. Now, he's being pulled right back into the crime business--only on the other side. Gru has been recruited to help Agent Lucy track down the thief of an entire laboratory, and, more importantly, a dangerous serum. A serum so dangerous, it turns fluffy little while bunnies into giant crazed fluffy monsters with ears.
Gru isn't entirely sure of his new job, he's still trying to be a dad, his loyal evil scientist has left him, and Agent Lucy (his partner) is a little on the crazy side. As in, he's not sure what (or if) she's thinking.
Can Gru find the criminal before it's too late?

Word of Warning
(Please note: the minions are little yellow jelly-bean-shaped creatures, some with one eye and some with two, that do not speak English.)
This movie was just as funny (if not more) as the first one, but not as child-friendly. The plot revolves around a serum that turns living things into crazed monsters that eat everything in sight. That can be a little disturbing for younger children. A brief list of the main problems:
  • The humor is often a little on the sour side. There is the 22 fart gun salute, a minion who loses his clothing (left in some sort of frilly under-thing), a minion's bare backside, a minion wears a grass skirt and a coconut bikini, and several "cross-dressing" minions who have male names but put on women's clothing for various reasons.
  • People are shot with a tazer (this is portrayed comically).
  • Hundreds of innocent minions turn into crazed monsters that try to eat everything in sight. Gru, another man, and Gru's three daughters shoot these minions with jelly to turn them back, a pretty intense battle even if it is just jelly.
  • A man injects himself to turn into a monster like the minions.
  • Two characters kiss.
  • A very charming boy catches the attention of Margo, who falls in love with him, only to have him cheat on her when she is not paying attention.
  • Gru is an overly protective father, but comically so.
  • The freeze ray gun returns, and at least one person is frozen.
  • Theft, breaking and entering, and spying are shown (all done by the good guys).
  • A woman and a shark are tied to a rocket, along with dynamite, to be flown into a volcano. It is suggested that another man did the same and died.
  • Gru's neighbor is constantly trying to get him to go out with her various acquaintances. After being incredibly pushy, she finally succeeds. Gru goes out on a date with a woman in a very skin-tight dress. When Lucy sees this, she shoots the woman in the bottom with a moose tranquilizer, and when a concerned waiter asks what the matter is with the woman, Lucy suggests that she's had too much too drink. We see Gru and Lucy removing the woman's body in a not-so-careful way.
My Thoughts:
It was funny. Painfully, pointlessly, funny. Isn't that what happens when good writers tell us all about a bad guy turned good now trying to live a normal life? Yes, but this is better than most of those stories.
Still, much of the humor is what could be labeled as dirty. It's not clean, but not too inappropriate for children. Instead, it's the kind of humor parents try to keep their children from exhibiting. On top of that, the plot does revolve around living things being artificially modified (by a serum) and turned into out of control crazed monsters that are rather dangerous. Though the minions still look comical, in a scary crazy monster way, the concept here is more than disturbing.
The kids that loved Despicable Me a few years ago are ready now to enjoy the sequel, and a wonderful sequel it was. But introducing new and younger fans? I would question whether they are ready for this movie just yet.
As Stacy C and I walked out of the theater, we were both a little sore from laughing so hard. I suspect we spent most of the movie doing just that. While I would not share this movie with my youngest brother (who is five), I would watch it again, anytime, and laugh again, the entire time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Movie Review: Monte Carlo

Title: Monte Carlo
Author: Fox 2000
Genre: Romance, drama
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 14+

My Summary -
Grace has been looking forward to a trip to Paris ever since she started highschool - she's been saving every penny she can toward traveling, and now that she's graduated, she and her friend, Emma, can finally go.
But her mother and step-father throw a wrench into her plans... Meg, Grace's bitter, incredibly responsible step-sister, is going to go along to keep them from trouble. And things go from bad to unbearable when they get to Paris and discover that the tour of the city Grace picked out is the worst in existence.
Frustrated and worn out, Grace storms into a high-end hotel to find some peace - and instead finds her identical twin. Only this twin is unbelievably rich, British and snobby.
Emma immediately sees the advantages in the situation, and the three girls from Texas ship themselves off to Monte Carlo to host a charity event and have some fun in place of Grace's twin (who has ditched the event to have some fun of her own).
They lie their way through a whole week in Monte Carlo, putting up rich-girl acts for several handsome men and the rest of the city, but when a multi-million dollar necklace goes missing on their watch, the girls find themselves in way more trouble than they bargained for.

The Bad -
Meg and Grace have an absolutely horrible relationship at the beginning of the movie, which mostly stems from Meg's bitterness after the death of her mother. This bitterness causes many arguments between the step-sisters. Emma and Meg also clash repeatedly because of Meg's stodginess and Emma's light-heartedness.
Emma's character can basically be summed up with two words: party girl. While we don't receive too many details about her past, we do know that she dropped out of high-school and spent most of her time partying (in a not-so-good way). Her clothing choices are consistently immodest (though Grace also wears a bikini), and Meg makes a snarky remark about them.
Emma abandons her faithful boyfriend (who has offered her marriage) to go to Paris and have fun. She wants to be rich and famous, and takes a lot of pleasure in their situation at Monte Carlo.
The whole movie revolves around the fact that the girls lie and steal their way to Monte Carlo. While they eventually realize how idiotic their decisions are, the issue is never fully addressed.
Cordelia, Grace's twin, is disrespectful to everyone around her. We hear conversations she has on the telephone, which mostly revolve around her own unhappiness and how she plans to escape her duties.
When the girls try to research Cordelia's life, they find out about the many scandals surrounding her. We don't hear anything specific, however.
While the movie limits itself to flirting and kissing, we see a lot of both. Emma tends to be the most inappropriate, openly admiring men. Grace and Meg both fall for guys whom they kiss. The romances seem pure, but Meg and her guy spend a night in Monte Carlo and don't return until morning. We see them doing (relatively) innocent activities. They eventually run off together to travel the world, and we don't find out if they marry or not.
Grace makes a comment about Cordelia having "a little more going on upstairs" as she's trying on the other girl's clothes.
Swearwords are limited to one a**, one substitute for the f-word, and one crude signal meaning "kiss my a**".

The Good:
Through her experiences in Monte Carlo, Meg finally learns to be a little bit more loose and have fun. Her relationships with both Grace and Emma improve hugely, and they become really good friends.
Emma eventually discovers that she doesn't need a fancy home or lots of money to be happy; all she really wants is her boyfriend, Owen.
Owen, in an awesome display of coolness, decides to travel all the way to Paris, then Monte Carlo, when he discovers that Emma is in some sort of trouble.
Grace finally realizes by the end of the movie that lying, even for a good cause, can completely destroy everything she values. She almost destroys the happiness of hundreds of children, who are the object of the charity that Cordelia is supposed to help, and the guy she's fallen for abandons her after learning who she really is. She apologizes publicly, along with Meg and Emma, for the mess she's created.

My Thoughts -
For a chick-flick, Monte Carlo wasn't too bad. What I really liked about it was that the focus wasn't really on the romances, but on the girl's relationships with each other. They go from almost constantly bickering to have a really deep friendship.
Granted, being "not too bad" still isn't the same as being "good". Like all romantic comedies, there's just enough unnecessary "stuff" to push this movie toward the dark end of a PG rating. That, and the fact that the whole movie revolves around a lie, made me a bit less thrilled about Monte Carlo in general.
Despite the problems it presents, it is overall a light-hearted story that left me feeling fluffy and happy. Which is basically the essential function of chick-flick. :)

Note: I recommended this for ages 14+. This might be a bit on the strict side; I have younger (11 - 12ish) siblings who've watched it with adult supervision. I definitely recommend that parents watch it first before giving it to a younger tween, however.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek (2009)

Title: Star Trek
Author: director J.J. Abrams
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ****
Official Rating PG-13
Age Group: 16+ (with the fast-forward button included)

Something happened a long time in the future. It appears a black hole was created. This black hole is to blame for the death of George Kirk, the father of James Kirk. Kirk (the one still alive) hasn't taken too well to the loss of a father figure. In fact, he never had one, and now he's running around with his head cut off with no direction. Until he joins star fleet. Then he gets to continue running around with his head cut off, but now he claims to have a direction.
Turns out he actually does. Romulans have come through the black hole to take revenge on Spock and Kirk is caught right in the middle of things (a result of running around with one's head cut off). What follows is a huge mess that Spock and Kirk get into. Somehow, the mess cumulates into one big problem: Nero is going to destroy pretty much everything he can (this includes planets).
Will Kirk and Spock be able to stop Nero before it's too late?

Word of Warning:
  • A woman falls into space and dies.
  • People die in explosions, shootings, space, and as a result of things falling on them.
  • Mrs. Kirk is in labor.
  • George Kirk sacrifices his life for his crew, wife, and child. The sacrifice isn't bad, but trying to watch it can be tough. The music, his facial expressions and tone of voice...everything adds up to being heartbreaking--and really well done.
  • A young boy steals his stepfather's car, speeds, and drives it over the edge of a cliff. He doesn't fall.
  • A boy is bullied and reacts by punching those who are bullying him.
  • People drink, and get drunk, but only in one scene.
  • Kirk is a ladies man of the highest degree. He flirts with a woman at a bar, uttering several inappropriate suggestions to her but nothing graphic, just suggestive. When he gets in a fight with some men, he is shoved backward against her and lands with his hands on her chest. He smirks, she glares at him and violently pushes him away.
  • Kirk does get what he deserves for his flirting. He is beaten up by four men who bloody his face and leave him gasping on a table and barely conscious.
  • He doesn't learn his lesson. We get a scene with Kirk and a green alien girl in her dorm room. Both are wearing underwear but both are on her bed. We get the hint that Kirk is not the only man she has done this with. The scene is cut short by her roommate arriving. Kirk dives under the bed and watches her roommate strip down to underwear before being discovered and kicked out into the hall barely dressed. He's not the least bit disturbed by all this. Hint: this is the scene to fast forward. To do this, it might be helpful to know the scene comes right after Kirk tells McCoy he's going to study, and ends right before the scene where Kirk is standing in front of a big assembly.
  • A woman suggests that farm boys "only have sex with animals." Kirk counters, "Well, not only."
  • Kirk cheats on a test and is more or less grounded until further notice. He justifies cheating because the test itself is a cheat and is not possible to pass anyway (missing the actual point of the test). We never get the impression that he regrets cheating.
  • People threaten to throw up twice.
  • Dr. McCoy injects Kirk with a vaccination in order to bring Kirk on a mission he is not supposed to be on. The injection is done on the side of the neck, and Kirk receives several more of these before he returns to a regular state of mind.
  • Kirk suffers from symptoms that make him look like he has a bad case of the flu. He then has an allergic reaction to something and his hands swell, later followed by his tongue. All is fixed by Dr. McCoy.
  • Kirk is disrespectful to command.
  • A man is tortured. One thing we do see is a slug being dropped into his mouth. It will latch onto his brainstem and force him to tell the truth. He does survive and makes it to the end of the movie.
  • Nero is out for revenge, no matter what it costs him.
  • An entire planet is destroyed. Spock's mother dies before his eyes.
  • A man is killed by a sort of beam that he falls into.
  • There is fighting that includes punching, guns, and choking.
  • Kirk purposefully gets Spock mad at him, resulting in Kirk getting beaten up (again) and choked until we're pretty sure he's not going to make it.
  • Kirk is cocky but not self-centered (at least, not entirely).
  • Spock and a woman share a few kisses, but none are problematic. In a sly move by the writers, Spock gets the girl in the end of the movie and Kirk (the ladies man) does not.
  • Other more minor problems.
My Thoughts:
It was a good movie. I thought. And then I tried to write the summary for this post, and I realized Stacy was right when she said not much had happened. What did happen? A few things blew up, Kirk got beat up a few times, and not much else.
So why was it so good? I admit that I am not usually a sci-fi fan, nor am I a Star Trek fan (Star Wars for me, always). So what was it about this movie that was so good?

Was it the acting? The drama and excitement? The music? It certainly was not the annoying lack of sound in space (scientifically correct, yes, but incredibly distracting and not even consistent). I honestly have no idea what it was. I just know I really enjoyed watching it the first time. The second time it felt too long and I started to see there was nearly nothing to it. The third time? Well, I have yet to actually watch it a third time.
Still, aside from the scene with the green alien girl (which can easily be avoided), it was a relatively acceptable movie for the right ages.
What happened? Why did I like it? I'm not sure an answer exists for those two questions. All I know is, I fully intend to watch more Star Trek--and
will remain a loyal Star Wars fan.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Movie Review: The Help

Title: The Help
Author: based on the book by Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG-13
Age Group: 16+

Skeeter is an independent young women surrounded by petty southern women who do not understand her. Get a husband, get him fast, and have babies. That's what you're supposed to do. So why in the world is Skeeter getting a job of all things? A journalist? Not only did she go to college, but she doesn't seem interested in dating. She seems interested in the help.
That's right. Skeeter is talking to the African-American women who have been hired as maids for the young women who look down on Skeeter. Crazy Skeeter. What is she thinking? She's going to get into trouble one of these days, yes she really is. Just you wait and see. That girl is backward.

Word of Warning:
  • The entire movie is filled with racist thoughts and viewpoints--all negatively portrayed of course. That's the point of the movie. It shows us what this time was really like.
  • Many of the racist moments center around a new law one of the young women is having put into place. This law requires that the help have their own bathroom and not use the bathroom of those they work for. One can imagine how well this would go over with younger audiences. Never do we get too much detail, but we do see a little girl sit on a toilet with her pants down (her dress hides almost everything else) as well as one of the help (again, her dress hides everything except her legs).
  • God's name is used inappropriately a few times, as is Jesus's. The words d**n, n*gger, a**, and s*** are used more than once. The catalogue of words is up there, yes, but not in a horrific way. This is historical fiction of the south, after all.
  • A desperate maid falls for a trap and steals a ring. She is later arrested and, when she struggles, is hit with a baton (we do not see the impact).
  • Another maid is framed for theft and fired.
  • A woman wears dresses with low-cut necklines and curve-hugging seams.
  • A woman has a miscarriage and we see blood on the floor, her hands, and her clothes. She later confesses that this is her fourth, that she hasn't told her husband, and that he wants children now. (This is a misunderstanding on her part. He actually does care for her.)
  • A couple gets married after they find out that the woman is pregnant.
  • A maid, who has been terribly wronged, brings a chocolate pie to her former employer. After the young woman has eaten some, the maid says, "Eat my s***," revealing to us what is in the pie. This is eventually used against the young woman to protect all the other maids, and this young woman is laughed at by her mother as well as other women who claimed to be her friends.
  • A young woman puts her mother in a nursing home out of spite.
  • A mother who is growing old does not have a strong grasp on reality. The maids treat her kindly and as a human being, but the young women are disrespectful of her.
  • Skeeter's mom is intent on getting Skeeter a man and getting the two married. At one point she implies that she's afraid that Skeeter is attracted to women, not men, but Skeeter is horrified and actually looks sick at the thought.
  • Skeeter and her mother are shown in underdresses which look much like a corset and a skirt.
  • Nearly everyone smokes. The movie has a good laugh by having the editor of a paper say something to the effect of "Some day they're going to find out those things kill you."
  • People drink at parties but rarely get drunk.
  • Stuart does get drunk and insults Skeeter. He later comes to apologize.
  • A man is shot for racist reasons, a car is set on fire for the same reason (both reported on TV and not seen in the movie).
  • The son of one of the maids is killed in a terrible accident (before the movie starts) and she misses him very much.
  • The young women of the south are almost all completely hypocritical. The only two who are not do not have a good social standing.
  • A husband, coming home for lunch, grabs his wife's backside before kissing her and mentioning how "hungry" he is. She giggles.
  • There is disrespect toward humans beings (of different races and of the same), often between children and their parents.
  • A young woman throws up at a party.
  • It is suggested that a woman is beaten by her husband.
  • There are more problems, but these are the biggest ones.
My Thoughts:
Generally, I like movies with action and a bit of romance. The flip side is that I find it hard to be interested in Jane Austin movies which, while they have a fair dose of romance, focus on social gatherings and happenings.
This movie does just that, but it is a work of art (like many of the Jane Austin movies are). It's incredibly hard to review, but I was very impressed. I felt like I was right back in the 1960's in Mississippi. Everything from the clothing down to the social activities and the way of speech. Honestly, I was incredibly impressed. But being impressed isn't the point of the movie, is it? The point of the movie is to shed light on how bad things really were back then. It did just that, but it managed to impress me one more time.
The attitude of the maids toward other human beings struck me as amazing. They had been harmed in so many ways, over and over, but somehow they managed to swallow their pain and continue on with kindness. How in the world did they manage? Skeeter wanted to know too. The answer she got? They were Christian. They were truly Christian.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Movie Review: Sleeping Beauty

Title: Sleeping Beauty
Author: Disney (animated)
Genre: Children's, Fairy Tale, Animated films
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: G
Age Group: 8+

My Summary -
When King Stephan and Queen Leah finally announce the birth of their daughter, Aurora, the kingdom is ecstatic. A royal feast is prepared, and all the most important people are invited (including Aurora's betrothed, seven-year-old Philip). Included on the guest list are the fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather, who all decide to give Aurora a special fairy-gift. But before they have time to cast their spells, an unexpected guest crashes the party.
Malificent is utterly evil, and utterly angry at being ignored by the king and queen. In a rage, she too casts a spell on Aurora: on her sixteenth birthday, the girl will prick her finger on a spindle and die.
Horrified, the royal couple look to the three good fairies to fix the situation, so they spirit the little baby away into the woods, where for sixteen years she lives, hidden from all society.
Until she meets a young man.

The Bad:
This movie is really early Disney, so there's nothing "bad", per se. A few things deserve caution for younger children, however.
Malificent is by far the most scary Disney villain; she doesn't have an ounce of goodness in her, and the scenes with her in them are dark and menacing. While there is little violence (Philip pushes around her evil minions, as does Malificent, and the Prince throws a sword into her at the end), she is completely creepy.
We see three men drinking champagne and fall into various stages of cartoon drunkenness (one even falls asleep).
The three fairies bicker with each other over silly things.
Aurora is extremely innocent, as is Philip. They literally fall in love at first sight, and after five minutes are ready to marry each other. Philip's advances are not bad in any way, but could be taken so by a modern audience (the movie was made over fifty years ago, and I think we tend to read more into certain situations than people back then). Their relationship is more ill-advised than anything.
Philip kisses Aurora while she is asleep.

The Good:
This is a real, Chestertonian, Tolkienian fairy tale that was not ruined by any attempt to make it more interesting or realistic. In fact, its charm lies in the fact that the characters ARE unrealistic, idealistic, and completely good (except for Malificent, who is said to be completely evil). It's a traditional battle of good and evil, with the Shield of Virtue and the Sword of Truth helping Philip to defeat the dragon (yes, he literally has a Sword of Truth).

My Thoughts:
From a film critic's point of view, this movie is a complete flop according to today's standards. The characters have no depth, there's random and drawn-out music sequences, and the plot is full of holes (the animation was very impressive, however).
But somehow, this movie has become a classic - it basically IS the epitome of Disney fairy tales.Very few Disney fairy tales directly address the fight of complete good against complete evil, and for some reason, the fact that this one did makes it more endearing than the rest.
I like Disney movies (the old ones, anyway), but I never actually saw this one until last night, and it instantly became my favorite. Maybe I'm an idealistic sap, but this is one good story.

I do advise parents that this movie probably isn't appropriate for anyone under the age of 8 just because of Malificent (quite honestly, I was rather afraid of her myself).