Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Hunters

Title: The Hunters

Genre: action, adventure, family, fairy tales, romance
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: PG (action/violence)
Age Group: 8+

Brothers Paxton and Tripp Finn have a good life. Aside from going to boarding schools all their lives and not really seeing their parents very often, they have a huge house, a stable with horses, Pax has a boat he's going to sail off in, Tripp's got an awesome phone, and, well, basically their family has money. Plus, the boys do have each other, which they're grateful for.
But when Interpol agents show up at their house one day and tell the boys that their parents are international thieves, not researchers, well, that turns everything upside down. Just when things can't seem to get worse, Dylan (the girl Paxton went out with a few times because his parents set them up) arrives. She's got a different story. Something about an ancient society protecting fairy tale items and their magic?
Yeah, the boys really aren't entirely sure what's true anymore. Until they're thrown into a crazy adventure. Can they figure out who to trust before it's too late? And are their parents even alive anymore?

Word of Warning
  • Giant half-clothed statue
  • The Finn boys are led to believe their parents are thieves--something far too easy to believe given the circumstances
  • The whole movie consists of adventure and near-injury (the kids are never actually harmed)
  • Hand-to-hand combat throughout, along with people being shot at with little crossbows. The only people who are hit are two bad guys, and this is off screen.
  • Characters use a zip line to get across a canyon. The second time, they fall in and are assumed dead. By the end of the movie, we are aware that they both survived.
  • One character uses a stick to pretend he has a spear through his middle. It's quick and overly dramatic, basically unbelievable (which was probably the point).
  • A wife suggests that if she didn't know better, she'd think her husband was flirting with their business partner. He assures her this is not the case.
  • Wife figures out a puzzle, and her husband mutters to her, "I am very attracted to you right now" to which she responds with feigned annoyance.
  • There is a suspected intruder in the barn, character goes up to see what it is with a pitchfork, finds his brother.
  • Tripp is apparently an expert when it comes to running away from his boarding school. This includes telling the headmaster he has a nose hair (in Latin) and needs treatment. He refers to his school as juvenile detention.
  • The brothers tease each other good-naturedly but they clearly do care for each other.
  • The Finn boys clearly feel cut off from their parents even though the family is held together by a strong bond. When Paxton tells his mom this, she admits she didn't know until then and is very sorry. Part of this cut off feeling comes from the boys not being told about their ancestry, which the mother claims was done to give them a regular childhood. They feel hurt by this as well.
  • The mirror in the story of Snow White has the power to give a person his/her deepest desire. According to the legend, the only thing anyone who wants the mirror wants is power.
  • Tripp refers to a stone as "this sucker" twice. This is the only language problem in the whole movie.
  • The kids choose to save the world, then their parents (reasoning doing it backward might not work). The mother praises them for this hard choice.
  • A drugged apple makes a character weak and eventually causes unconsciousness.
  • A hench-woman clearly wants to kill the people she is following even though her boss tells her he needs them alive. This includes the mother character, as well as three "kids" (ages probably between 19-15 but not clearly stated).
  • The kids climb a rock wall. At the top, one of the boys is almost killed by a rake-like device that flips up toward his chest/face.
  • The kids come across a skeleton with an arrow through it. They take its torch and move on.
  • A car is shown chasing down the three kids.
  • A girl tumbles down a hill, landing on top of a boy, and then the other boy crashes in and breaks up their tender moment which consists of the boy tucking the girl's hair behind her ear and asking if she's ok.
  • The mother character is tied up and kept prisoner.
  • The girl tries on various moderately immodest evening gowns. We see both the boys without their shirts on, briefly. One of these moments results from the girl looking for the boy and walking in on him while he's apparently changing. She leaves quickly and looks shocked. He doesn't seem to be a big fan of the situation either.
  • Moderately immodest evening gowns worn by characters at a party (we see very little and they are not important to the plot, just there for the party).
  • Betrayal by trusted family friend.
  • Characters enter a graveyard at night and eventually enter a tomb to find the mirror.
  • The bad guy claims traditions are a sort of slavery and power is the way to go, not being afraid of things like the traditions advise.
  • Girl is taken captive by her hair and dragged off. She is later punched in the stomach by the woman that she just kicked.
  • A man turns to stone and crumbles. A woman is hit by an evil beam of light and knocked out. The whole castle implodes and we assume she's dead, but we find out at the end of the movie that she survived.
  • A brief kiss.
My Thoughts
I admit it. The better and more acceptable a movie is, the more picky I am with the "words of warning." Why? Because instead of mentioning the aspects which would cause more concern than others in order to keep the list down to a few pages, I can mention every single little thing and still end up with a decently short list. That is what happened with this movie. I was incredibly impressed by it. It was one of the few PG non-animated movies I would happily watch over and over. It could easily capture a wide range of ages for its audience.
And it's so good. The family dynamics, the brothers' friendship, the romance, and the adventure. Granted, it's a little cheesy when I sit back and think about it. But during the movie, I very rarely found myself thinking that. Of course, after watching it a good three times within two days (rentals....) I did find the cheesy parts without too much trouble. Even then, they didn't bother me very much.
Putting it simply: a great movie night movie for nearly the whole family.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie Review: Tangled

Title: Tangled
Author: Disney
Genre: animation, fairy tales, princess movies, adventure, romance, animals
My Rating: ****
Brother's Rating: **** (with the understanding that this is only a comparison to other Disney princess movies)
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 6+

"This, is the story of how I died" begins the male narrator. Indeed. This is the story of Rapunzel, with a few twists. The queen is sick, and only a magical flower, come from a seed from the sun, can save her. Unfortunately, a selfish old woman keeps the flower hidden. When the kingdom sets out to search for the flower and save their queen, they find it. She recovers, and gives birth to a beautiful little girl. The selfish woman is outraged. She used the flower to keep her young for decades (possibly centuries). She kidnaps the child and raises her as her own in a desperate attempt to avoid death and aging.
But when the girl turns eighteen, a thief happens upon her tower. She uses blackmail to force him to take her to see what she calls the floating lights.
A thief, a girl with long hair named Rapunzel, and a crazy old woman. Not exactly a recipe for a peaceful life.

Word of Warning
I must admit that I was shocked when I sat down and actually took notes on this movie. It's one of my favorite Disney princess movies (granted, I haven't watched many), and I had conveniently ignored all the problems it has. Here is the list I recorded:
  • For those who might object, the flower is magical. It can make one never age, it can heal wounds, and we really don't know what it can't do.
  • The old lady clearly fears death and old age. She wants to remain young and beautiful and goes to extremes to do so. She is selfish, hides the flower, then kidnaps a girl, and lies to her. Then when that girl disappears, she goes even farther. This includes flirting with two criminals (intending only to double cross them), lying, breaking her "daughter's" romance up because she wants the girl's powers to herself, and more.
  • The movie makes the thief look like a swashbuckling hero. Thievery eventually gets him in jail and almost hung, but overall his crimes are not looked down upon very much.
  • The hero is selfish, arrogant, a criminal, totally not above using the girl to get what he wants, and player (we can assume). Among other weaknesses, of course.
  • The "mother" character is always "teasing" her daughter but not in a kind way. It ends up sounding a bit cruel. She doesn't listen to the girl and what she wants, scolds the daughter playfully, lies to her constantly, and claims that she knows best and the daughter should not object to anything she says.
  • Cannibals are mentioned briefly, with the image of a doll in a frying pan with chopped up carrots (this is used as an illustration for a song).
  • The mother is clearly using her daughter. Not only that, but she apparently sees nothing wrong with using the girl for her power. This makes it necessary to run the girl's life and protect her only for the mother's personal gains, which she does readily.
  • The hero betrays fellow criminals without a second thought. He's shot at with arrows and falls over a cliff. He is also hit on the head several times with a frying pan (this knocks him unconscious) and encounters a few swordfights. He is, after all, wanted dead or alive.
  • The girl is also manipulative. She  blackmails the hero-thief to get her worldly adventure. She breaks her mother's rules and leaves the tower, feeling a bit guilty but not planning on returning any time soon.
  • The hero claims that a little rebellion and adventure is good, possibly even healthy. Sure, it might hurt the girl's mother very deeply, but that can't be helped. Or so he says.
  • The hero-thief continually takes advantage of the girl. He uses her innocence and naivety to hurt her, frighten her, and try to get out of the original plan.
  • There is a bar full of dangerous-looking men who turn out to be sweet and have high dreamy hopes for a better life. It's made clear that they've killed in the past, and the hero is in danger of death for much of the scene these men are in. Since the girl is so naïve, this scene is not nearly as frightening as it could be. In fact, it ends up being more comical than anything.
  • In the bar, an old man wears a diaper and no shirt or pants. He is clearly drunk and flirts with a younger women (who happens to be the mother, but he doesn't know that).
  • Two characters nearly drown. They're aware of their near-death situation and tell each other secrets, clearly preparing for death.
  • The hero gets a cut on his hand. It's not very serious, but it does hurt.
  • The mother insults her daughter.
  • A horse and the hero are often participating in comic violence, even after shaking hand/hoof on getting along for twenty-four hours.
  • Low cut necks on dresses, particularly on the mother, form fitting clothing, and ridiculously unrealistic "perfection" in the animated figures is seen throughout.
  • The girl takes a stand against her mother, and is chained and kept prisoner because of it.
  • A man is stabbed and dying. There is blood on his shirt, he coughs and gasps and can hardly talk, and it's pretty plain that he's suffering quite a bit. He resists efforts made to heal him in order to save a girl from being a prisoner forever.
  • The mother/old woman falls out a window and dies in a poof.
  • The hero dies.
  • There are two almost kisses. And two "real" (animated-real) kisses.
  • A sun-type burst from the dead man's body looks a bit frightening to younger kids (they've actually told me this themselves).
My Thoughts

And yet even with all that, I genuinely enjoy this movie. It's possible that that is because the hero-thief does a 180 character development wise. At first, he's selfish and far from being a gentleman. By the end of the movie, he's been captivated by a girl and is willing to sacrifice his life for her even though it means a lot of physical pain--his willingness is taken advantage of and exactly that happens. Then there's the charming naïve girl who finds joy in everything. It's a refreshing outlook on life to see the girl happy to simply walk in the grass with bare feet.
And of course the entire thing is a great adventure, full of laughs, and with just enough "awwww" moments to make it a Disney princess movie.

Disney movies always have a message, and often the message is the same. In this one, it's that one should have something to live for, to dream of, to chase. Then they miss the point and add that once you've reached your dream, you can get another one. True, yes, but the ultimate dream would be heaven, and you don't really need a replacement dream for that. Little dreams along the way to help you get there? Absolutely.

From a Catholic standpoint then, this movie just misses the mark (at least, on the message). But that doesn't mean it's not a really great story.