Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Romance That Leaves You Wanting More : A Review of The Age of Adaline

My wife and I sat down to watch The Age of Adaline and I thought it started out very strong.  It had
excellent acting, an interesting story,  and a romantic plot.   My wife was hooked.  The story is about Adaline who through some freak accident never ages past the age of 29.  It was well told and really drew you into the story - that is -  until the last 30 minutes.  First of all I will say that Blake Lively did a wonderful job in the role she played.  She really helped the viewer be invested in the character and that is no easy feat in the modern world of movies.  However, unfortunately the plot of the movie didn't stay as strong as the acting talent involved. It was produced and acted very well, but the story seemed to fall short.  I won't be-labor the point,  but here are some issues I had with The Age of Adaline:

1. A Better Written Ending - just when I was emotionally invested in the characters,  the ending was taped on with very little thought of closure for the viewer.   It left me feeling like it didn't give the writers enough time to close up the story in a satisfactory way.   When viewers spend over 60 minutes watching a story like that,  you want something more.

That's it.  I just want some decent script writing.  The Age of Adaline drew me in.  I wanted to root for Adaline, but the way it tied it all up - I was disappointed.  I like romantic movies, and I was hoping this one would be another highly rated one - but unfortunately it failed in the writing department.  The script ends with a small indicator of change.   It didn't show me enough closure with everything else going on.  The viewers deserve more than that.  Hopefully Hollywood will take note.

An Exceptional War Movie : Review of Hacksaw Ridge

Let me start this review saying I have seen a lot of war movies.  I do mean A LOT.   My brothers and dad had me growing up viewing many war movies - some good - some not-so-good.  I was a bit hesitant starting this movie just because I didn't want to witness another gore-fest with no heart.   However,  this movie proved to be the opposite.  It surprised me in many ways and many positive ways.  It was edifying, encouraging and it was true.  These all made it stand apart from the average war movie.  The other beauty of this movie was that it showed the Christian faith can be a source of strength regardless of whether the Christian carries a weapon.  That was a powerful statement for any movie to make.

The story is of Desmond Doss a conscientious objector who entered WW2 and declined to carry a weapon but served the US Army by being a medic.  He was persecuted by his own fellow army guys.  He was ridiculed and beat by men on his side.  Yet he stayed true to his convictions and not only that - he eventually earned the respect of his fellow army guys, he demonstrated Matthew 5:5 in a way that is hard to deny.   Jesus said "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." in that verse - and Desmond Doss showed how that worked in real life.  Many people think "meekness" and "weakness" are synonyms.   They aren't.   Meekness is controlled strength and it takes more self-control to exercise meekness than anger.   Desmond Doss showed meekness is an amazing way in this movie.   It inspired me to stand by my convictions and not give up when God calls you to a mission.  Kudos to Mel Gibson for showing this with high production values.  If you are curious in how that looked, watch the movie.  I doubt you will be disappointed.

The Heroine Quitter: A Review of Bad Moms

Well, Paul added to our repertoire of movies by purchasing a Ruku. I am not the most technical side of this relationship. So, all I know is he went to Best Buy, came home and did some finagling and in Emeril fashion "BAM!" we have a one month trial period of all these popular recent movies. Our Netflix que is looking quite sparse lately. The Netflix selection is bland. I mean gluten free bread type bland. Yet, with many choices comes the need for discernment. Sadly, one night while searching for a flick that did not have animated characters and singing in it, I settled on Bad Mom's. (Spoiler alert: I blatantly reveal the movie ending). 

This flick was released around the same time that Mom's Night Out was out in theaters. I remember enjoying a trip with some MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) friends to see that flick, but I was curious about the other "Mom" movie from a non conservative point of view. I grew up in the 80's where I truly felt that Christina Applegate was my long lost big sister. In fact, when my real life Sister last visited we watched Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead for the 100th time. 

The beginning of this movie starts out with f-bombs every other word. I do tend to guard what I view and take-in from a media stand point quite a bit, so this was frankly a little shocking to me coming from a cast of women. It was really unexpected. Do women talk like salty Navy sailors in real life? The cast of women is quite impressive as far as talent is concerned too. The cast is filled with strong female leads: Mila Kumis, Kristin Bell, and Kathryn Hahn. All of these women have been perfecting their acting chops from a young age. They have experience on screen to blend their strengths with great comedic timing.

I really enjoyed the PTA meeting where Christina Applegate is discussing what foods are allowed to be brought into the school bake sale. Every Mom can relate to his ordeal of "appropriate" food with the list of allergies and concerns growing every year. Yet, we also have a stereotypical portrayal of stay-at-home Mom's as nosy busybodies or slaves to housework. What lies! Anyone can tell you, it is a choice between a husband and wife to have one person stay home and live on one income to raise your own children. It comes with sacrifice and difficult choices for your family. 

Yet, when I got to the midpoint of this movie I realized that I would label Bad Moms a "bleak comedy." See, black comedy would indicate someone dies. So, what do you call it when marriages die and it's applauded all through out the movie? I will call it bleak. This movie delves into joining the rest of Hollywood in the blatant attack on traditional values, conservatism, marriage, and men. Who is writing this garbage? Oh, it is Scott Moore and Jon Lucus (most known for The Hangover and other raunchy films which I haven't seen). Several times we hear Amy Mitchell (Mila Kumis) say she is going to do everything she can for her two kids as she contemplates her marital woes. 

Yet, this main heroine is totally befuddled with how she got to this point in her relationship with her husband!? She is, of course, just an innocent victim in her life. She hasn't dated her husband in the last several years. In fact, she can't even remember when they last had intimacy. She disrespects him and treats her husband like a child. There is no fight for her marriage. There is really no commitment on her part except to the children. She forgot that marriage has to be her first priority. As Dr. Laura says, "You have to be your husband's girlfriend first."

So, the film portrays there is only one option for a dysfunctional marriage and here come the Hollywood smoke and mirrors solution: being a single Mom is great!  How insulting. Yes, oh yes, there is the freedom I've been looking for! This marriage is too hard. Quit. This parenting gig is too hard. Quit. The heroine is a quitter. Why am I so surprised at this movie as it is a secular point of view? I don't know. I'm just hoping that if some of these third-wave feminist ideas have seeped into my worldview; I want to be aware of it and place my feet on a solid path of biblical based common sense!

If you are struggling in your marriage (and all marriages go through seasons) the answers you are looking for are in the Bible. Start looking for older women with strong marriages that you trust for counseling suggestions. If you find a counselor find out first if they hold marriage as a sacred covenant. Get help! God loves marriage. He created it and He will see you through. A great movie on this is, War Room. This movie is so good at illustrating the POWER of prayer through life that it will even make you want to clean out your precious closet space for a quiet prayer closet! If that is not your current season; lets use our energies to encourage our husband today and our single Mom friends. 

I give this a generous .5 out of 5 stars. 

Resources: 
Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley 
Bible Verses about Training your Children
War Room 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Well-Told Story : A Review of Rogue One

Although I didn't see this movie in the theater,  I finally received it on my Netflix queue and was able to sit down and review it.   I like the Star Wars stories and didn't really abhor even Episodes 1, 2, and 3.  I had mixed feelings about Rogue One because it wasn't going to meddle with the original story line but simply be an add-on story.  Fortunately,  I felt it was really well-done.    Here is why I think Rogue One did things right:

1. Focus was more on the story than on the special effects.  

Star Wars movies have a hard line to walk.  Not only are they compared to IV, V and VI constantly, but they have to balance a great special effects universe with a good story.  This movie seemed to have the winning combination so that I didn't feel I was watching a video game and actually cared about the characters involved.

2. Great humor used throughout without becoming a comedy

Without giving anything away, I thought the use of humor was great in this movie.   It had me laughing out loud several times and I think that added to the story.

3. Great acting from all characters

The bad guys, the good guys, and even the robots had great parts and played them well in this movie. It was refreshing to find such a well-acted movie with such high production values.

4. Noble effort to tie in other Star Wars stories

This movie did a great job giving nods to prior movies without tampering too much with the other stories.  It did the job just right of creating an add-on story without overpowering the original tales.

Overall - I was very pleased and a bit surprised as to how good this movie was.  I have enjoyed watching the rebooted Star Trek movies as well, but this one seemed to be a few notches above even the Star Trek ones.  If you have any interest at all in the Star Wars universe, you should at least give Rogue One a watch.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

How to Cope With Grief : A Review of Collateral Beauty

So this movie just recently came out and I thought it might be good.  I admire movies that are less fluff and tackle deep life issues.  Collateral Beauty looked like it was just the ticket.  After it arrived, I sat down to view it and see if Will Smith came through again in a moving performance.  First of all,  I will say it is VERY well acted.  They have many big names working in this movie which means the quality of work is not to be questioned.
Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Will Smith to name a few (as mentioned earlier).

Basically the story is about Will Smith who plays a grieving dad who lost his 6 year old daughter.  He basically stops performing at his job and starts doing domino creations and then watches them all crumble.  This is one of those movies where pink slips are non-existent and jobs allow their employees and/or co-founders to do whatever they desire while they process their life changes.  Makes a great movie,  but I seriously question how realistic it is in the real world.  Anyway, Will's co-workers want him to process it and be productive so they hire a crew of 3 actors which are paid to portray the three themes of Will's life:  Time, Love, and Death.  These actors take on the challenge and try to work through the difficulties with Will Smith's character to the point of helping him grieve, as well as helping him to snap back into reality.   Here is what I liked about Collateral Beauty:

1. Great attempt at processing the grief of loss of a loved one.  I admire their desire to make this movie deeper than average, yet I still felt it left something to be desired.

2. Great acting and well-done writing for the script.  The cast for this movie was very well put together and it was executed well.  The writing went a level deeper than most movies, but didn't go as deep as possible.

3. Nice twists and turn to leave the ending well put together.   I don't want to give anything away but this movie offered twists and turns as it played out and wasn't just a standard movie with very predictable paths.  That definitely helped my overall rating.

Now that I have listed the positives, I will summarize what I didn't like about it:

Negative 1:  No mention of the afterlife.   The whole movie didn't even TOUCH the subject of whether there is life after death - even though the Bible clearly teaches that.   Eternity is a long time and all of us will have to answer to God and His Son Jesus for the way we used our life on Earth and how we chose to believe or doubt the claims of Christ.

Negative 2: Too short to be adequately invested in the main character - I like Will Smith and his acting, but at the end of the movie I didn't feel like I was emotionally invested in his character as much as I was in the movie 7 Pounds.   This could be because there was so much acting talent, it was hard to follow one character exclusively, or it could have been due to the writing.  I'm not sure.  I just know it was well done, but didn't quite rise to the level of 4 stars due to the number of stories, actors/actresses and the writing.

Negative 3: No mention of truth being an absolute or a Person.   Typical Hollywood.  They want you to feel good, but don't want to make anyone believe they need to make changes (unless it is to become more liberal in their thinking).  Truth is absolute.  Truth is a Person and His name is Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Without believing this,  your life will just fall apart when you don't understand why things happened when they did.   Check out the Bible.  Truth can bring comfort  and God will never let you down.

So to summarize : I enjoyed watching this movie - but I thought it could be done better.  I would give it a solid 3.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Life As A Mortal : A Review of Thor

I finally got around to watching this movie : Thor starring Chris Hemsworth as the main character.  I must confess I think Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins really helped the overall story.   Thor is the story of a cocky superhero who thinks the world revolves around him and his ego.  He gets a humbling lesson when he is thrown to earth for the purpose or realizing he needs to learn a few things.  Chrystal and I sat down and watched this story and overall we enjoyed it.  However, there are a few things we wished it did better,  here they are:

1.  More storyline about his adjustment to being a normal human - although there were some parts showing his challenge in adjusting to earth-life - we both thought there could have been more development in this part.

2. Definitely More Humor Would Have Been Nice - Thor didn't need to be a comedy, but humor is always welcome in strong and interesting stories.  Thor had a few moments of humor but could have been much funnier if they had chosen to write in more humor to the script and story.

3. Great Story Overall, but Probably Better if You Also Followed the Comics.  Neither me nor Chrystal follow the comics so we didn't know how far or close this was to the original comic book storyline.  Overall I thought it was a decent movie but probably no more than 3.5 stars out of 5.  I wish it got more overall, but it just wasn't as developed as I hoped in the almost 2 hour movie.   Did I feel it was a waste?  No, not that bad.  I just have seen better stories told in Ironman and Ironman 3 (I intentionally left out the dismal Ironman 2).    It was a good movie, and I don't think we wasted our time watching it - we just were hoping for a bit more.  Marvel has released so many quality stories it is hard to compete with all the different story-lines.  We still plan on watching the sequel however.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Blood is Thicker Than Water : Review of People Like Us

I recently watched "People Like Us" and thought it was refreshing.  The story of Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks as half-brother and half-sister definitely had some thought put into the script.  I am getting tired of half-baked scripts where writers don't have to have any depth of character development or emotional pull on the way others interact with them for the whole course of the movie.  "People Like Us" breaks the mold. It is the story of money, values, and the need to connect as a family.  Chris Pine plays an isolated son of a famous music producer.  He lives his life very separated from the family that helped him grow.  Elizabeth Banks plays the daughter of the music producer who was pretty much ignored in her lifetime because her father had another family.   This movie had depth. It wasn't perfect, but it was far more refreshing than 75% of the movies churned out today.   Almost 2 hours is used telling the story of Chris Pine the isolated son and his effort to rekindle with his half-sister played by Elizabeth Banks and her son.  I don't want to add spoilers to this review, but I thought it was well put-together and emotionally compelling.   Sometimes I like a violent action movie that requires little thought.   "People Like Us" was different - and some people would consider it "slow" to develop.  However, if you put the time into watching the story,  I think you will feel your time wasn't wasted.   For those who like thoughtful and emotional family dramas,  maybe you should check out "People Like Us".   The writing and acting do NOT disappoint.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Football and a Look Back : A Review of Touchback

Recently I added a movie that looked good - or so I thought.  I tend to enjoy good uplifting football movies.  From Remember the Titans to movies like Woodlawn - I'm all for a good sports drama that demonstrates the power of sports and a common mission to bring people together.  Touchback is different though in a good way.  Touchback sets itself apart because it isn't mainly a football movie.  Football definitely plays a major theme,  but overall there are many more aspects to this movie that help set it apart from the other movies like it.

Brian Presley stars in this movie about a high school quarterback who after having everything going for him,  gets a serious injury in his final game that changes his life dramatically.   Kurt Russell plays the coach in his life who helps him sort through what is really important in his life.   The rest of it is for the viewer to find out.   Without giving it away here is why Touchback got a very high rating in my opinion:


1.  Realistically balances the sports story with other aspects of living your life.   Like stated above, this movie isn't totally about football,  and in this case that is a positive thing.

2. Enough content to keep the ladies interested.  My wife wasn't sure she was going to like this movie.  She went into watching it expecting to possibly leave half-way into it.   She ended up loving it so much that she watched it twice and we now own a copy!  For a movie that features football, that is very impressive!

3.  Great lessons shown throughout that enforce the value of family, perseverance, and resisting what looks good now for a better goal long term.  These types of themes are hard to find in many flaky, stupid movies made today.

4. Convincing acting and tightly written story.  Many times positive value movies have a great message with some moving music, and decent acting.  I felt this movie was in a league above the average positive family movie.   Yes, it was a great family movie,  but it was also very well-written and acted out.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well this movie was put together.

Although this movie wouldn't be considered religious in the content,  the values it conveyed hit it out of the park and it was one I would love to watch again.  If you want a movie that I would describe as well-done, edifying and encouraging to watch,  you should check out the movie Touchback!  Two thumbs up from Paul & Chrystal.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Limitless: The Potential for Greatness

Wow, I could relate to the main character in this film. Brian Finch (Bradley Cooper) is a writer with years of "writers block." He has trouble getting....

Okay, I literally wrote that start of a sentence on June 21. This irked Paul to no end. I find it hilarious. If you watch this film, Limitless, life really can imitate art or art does imitate life. I related to the main character so much that it's a little too close to home for me. Brian Finch is a professional writer that cannot crystallize all the ideas in his head and get them to work in a coherent organized manner. Everyone keeps looking at him baffled as to why he can't "get it together" when he has so much potential. I empathized with the character because it shows how exasperating modern life is when you struggle specifically with executive function skills. As an adult, you are expected to do a lot of left-brained living (work, pay bills, clean house, and maintain relationships) that completely relies on your ability to use executive function skills. If you haven't learned these skills and you are a creative right-brained type it's hard to make a living doing what you love because of pesky details like deadlines. Trust me I know. The right-brained types are just trying to look the part and hope you do not notice the hula-hooping we did behind the scenes.

Sadly, Brian Finch succumbs to unhealthy coping mechanisms and is basically self-destructing. That is until he gets a hold of a 'miracle' drug called NZT that has not yet been released on the market. Suddenly, he can actually focus and retain all the information in his brain and make it work to his advantage. Is this movie take a look at ADHD and drugs such as Ritalin and Adderal? I think the movie points a finger at the pharmaceuticals. How they manipulate us, how we don't always know what is in the drugs we take, and how people become addicted to the quick fix.

Our society has a different definition of success than God's definition. When you accept the Lord God as your Savior your priorities become His. Therefore, even if you never get accolades from others: you will always be valued in the eyes of the One who matters.

Here is my movie review summary:

1. Obviously, I am fascinated by the educational information coming out about "executive skills." So, for that reason I was very glued to this story line.
2.There is one violent scene in the beginning and I thought that would be it, but sadly this movie right in the middle goes into a very violent scene because everyone wants to get a hold of this drug. It becomes gory! It was so intense I had to hide under a blanket. Yes, I know. I'm a wimp.
3. Pick your own ending twist. The end of the movie will leave you so perplexed that you will be loudly debating the last few scenes, re-watching the last few moments, and trying to figure out the conclusion of the film, which is awesome!

Three out of five stars.

Resources:

Reaching Your Full Potential by Charles Stanley (In Touch Ministries)

Finally Organized by Kathy Roberts (The Tidy Tutor) Ebook