Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
This movie has all the elements of a great Christmas movie. It’s lots of fun with humor added all along the way, keeping it from ever getting too heavy. At the same time, Dicken’s message of redemption is still loud and clear. The songs are catchy. The movie looks and feels old-fashioned, charming, and magical.
2. Home Alone
Besides being a clever story about a boy who is left alone in his home to fend off a couple of bumbling crooks, this is one of the great Christmas stories of our time. What better way for a boy Scrooge to learn what’s important in life than to be suddenly without a family during Christmas. The music in this movie alone is heart-warming and brings me into the Christmas spirit every time.
3. Christmas Vacation
I don’t recommend this one for the kids due to off-color jokes and crass words, but for laugh-out-loud comedy coupled with a great story, you can’t beat this classic. Many other Christmas and non-Christmas movies have tried to duplicate the success of the over-enthusiastic-dad storyline made popular in the vacation movies. Chevy Chase, however, is still the king of that character. His loveable goofiness, coupled with the writing of the National Lampoon wrapped in a family Christmas tale, makes for timeless entertainment.
4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Technically, this is not a movie. It’s actually a 26 minute animated Christmas Special from 1966. I had to include it, because it’s my all-time favorite Christmas story. I looked forward to it’s airing every year as a child and teenager. It was and still is funny, creative, and it teaches a wonderful lesson. The live-action version with Jim Carrey didn’t have quite the same magic for me. Dr. Seuss’s original is still one of the best of all time.
5. The Christmas Carol (2009)
I included this version, mostly because it sticks closer to Charles Dickens’ original story. It’s a much darker, and even more frightening telling of the story then, the Muppet version mentioned above. That’s probably how Dickens meant for his story to be taken, as a ghost story. I don’t recommend this adaptation for smaller kids, but for older crowds it’s great entertainment. The computer animated characters and heavy special effects are visually stunning. Because of the darker nature of this movie, the change-your-ways-or-go-to-hell storyline is center stage from start to finish. That’s one of my favorite things about this version of the Christmas Carol. I just wish Dickens hadn’t left out the most important part of the story; salvation only happens through Jesus Christ. Oh well. This story certainly brings us close to that truth. Maybe an occasional viewer will reach that conclusion on their own after seeing this powerful movie.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Here we are again, in 2010, in the middle of another 3D revolution but this time, 3D has actually made some headway in changing our movies. It's actually expected now, that every big budget movie will be made in 3D. It's become the norm now rather than the cheap parlor trick.
There are two reasons why it's finally succeeding. First, the 3D technology has truly improved by leaps and bounds. Some movies, the ones that are made for 3D, are really fun to watch. The other reason is the powerful marketing machines of the big studios have gotten behind it and convinced us that we have to have 3D for a bigger and better movie experience.
However, the current 3D revolution is only good news for the studios and little kids who don't pay for their own movie tickets. Sure, 3D is fun to watch, but it's not worth paying lots of extra money to see. A few nights ago, I took my wife and two kids to see one of the newest 3D movies and it cost us $48.00 for tickets. Each ticket had $3.00 added for the privilege of watching in 3D. Only, it wasn't a privilege because we weren't given an option of watching that movie in non-3D,. We'd already promised our girls that we'd be watching that particular movie, so we went ahead with it. A stop at the snack bar cost me another $13 for a medium popcorn and a medium drink. By the time I sat down in my theater seat, I felt sick knowing I'd just spent $61 for a movie that I'll be able to rent at the Redbox, in a few months, for $1.
Here's my point. The economy is still way down and money is tight for most of us, and first run movie theaters are the only businesses that don't get it. I understand that their hands are tied. I'm sure big budget movies come with a hefty price tag for the rights to be shown. But, the whole industry is broken if a Mom and Dad have to pay $61 dollars to watch a movie with their kids. Fifteen years ago, movie theaters were justified in raising their prices. The movie experience was fun and unique and way better than VHS movies or watching on TV with all the commercials. Today, we have many more options for our movie entertainment; DVD, Blue-Ray, and Pay-Per-View movies on high-def t.v.'s. Not-to-mention downloadable movies right to your home computer. The competition is intense now, and the movie theaters have responded with over-priced 3D.
How long will this 3D revolution last? I predict not too much longer. Very soon, maybe in 2011, 3D ticket sales will decline as the novelty wears off and the American public realizes it's not worth the cost. We love movies and we love going to the movie theater, but as the price goes up we'll choose the movie theater experience less and less. If theaters want to stay alive, they should give us 3D at the price of the non-3D movie, giving us more reason to come back, and come back again.
Considering all the competition, and the high prices of tickets, I don't see how first run theaters will still be around in 5 to 10 years, at least not in the form they are now. If they do stay around, I expect them to change into some kind of upper class entertainment experience more like a night at a performing Arts center to see a live play.
I hope, before that happens, they'll see the writing on the wall and find a new way of delivering new movies to us in an affordable way so that we can keep going to the movies. If that does happen, I sure hope they'll also figure out a way to bring down the price of a bag of popcorn.
One of the many things I liked about Tangled was the relationship between Rapunzel and the leading male, Flynn Rider. Their friendship/romance was more developed than in previous princess movies. Normally, the handsome prince, or love interest character is one-dimensional and exists only as an object for the princess to desire. He becomes a motivation factor to get her to break out of her safe and lackluster existence. The difference in Tangled is that we learn as much about Rider as we do about Rapunzel. He also has a back story, and goals, and weaknesses just like Rapunzel. It makes for an interesting push and pull between the two leads that isn't usually seen in a Disney movie.
Everything else about Tangled was perhaps what you would expect from a Disney movie, but all done with perfection. The villain was just evil enough to make the plot believable but she was never over-the-top like so many kids movie villains today. There were great songs, but not too many. And, one scene involving floating luminaries that was touching and beautiful.
I watched it with my wife and my younger kids. All 4 of us commented afterwards on how good the movie was. I always count it as a plus when a movie is good enough for all ages to enjoy. I'll rate it 235 for entertainment value and 240 for moral character. The total Watcher500 score is 475 (out of a possible 500 points).
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
The other reason is that the standards for today's horror movies are much different than they were even 20 years ago. The blood and gore, satanic elements, and sex have increased to the point that I've generally given up on horror movies.
However, that doesn't mean I don't like horror. In fact It's just the opposite. A well written, well acted, horror flick with plenty of suspense and horror and a sci-fi twist is about as good as it gets for me. So, I've compiled a short list of some of my favorites. I'm not recommending any of these movies for family viewing unless your kids are older. But, if you're a consenting adult who likes a well made horror movie and you're tired of wading through the buckets of blood, guts, and even sex that Hollywood insists on filling every horror movie with, than maybe this list will be of use to you. I'm not saying that the movies on my list are free of blood. etc.. but. rather. these are movies that creatively scare us without depending on the cheap thrills.
1. "Poltergeist" (1982) This is the only movie on my list that has no sci-fi element, just ghosts and the supernatural. This is Steven Spielberg's homage to horror movies. Poltergeist sets the standard for every ghost movie to follow. It's extremely well made and because of that, it's incredibly scary.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Hereafter deals with the afterlife, a topic that we all have a vested interest in. However, as we put down our ten dollars at the theatres, we should at least be aware of Clint Eastwood’s personal beliefs on the afterlife before we watch his story. I thoroughly believe that movies are the most powerful medium there is today for influencing the beliefs of their audience. I also believe that every movie is preaching something. What we watch in that dark theatre or in our living room will have some lasting effect on us, good or bad.
The interview is by David Germain, of the Associated Press, posted on 10/13/2010. You can find the complete interview here http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/39657139/ns/today-entertainment. Here is an excerpt:
"(Eastwood) attended a variety of churches, mostly Protestant, as a boy but gave up on it early on, disliking the wrathful tone that was preached. "I couldn't believe that God would be a great sadist in the sky, getting pleasure out of, 'If you screw up, I'm going to bust you, boy,'" Eastwood said. "That's a way of keeping people in line, I guess." He does find Buddhism attractive, "because they don't seem to be as mean-spirited, and their idea of God is sort of a heavyset guy who's got a smile on his face, and I thought, hey, that's nice," Eastwood said. "I don't know what I think about it. I probably tend to think, you're here for the time you're here, and you should do the best you can for the time you're here, and appreciate it and move on. That's rather simplistic, but that's where I come out."
I’m not trying to keep people away from this movie. I say, go see it. Clint and Matt are two of my favorite actors and director of all time. But, before you go, arm yourself with an understanding of what the message is that’s being preached. Also, know what you believe in order to defend against the beautiful lies that will be so brilliantly displayed on the screen as truth.
Let’s all remember that no matter how high we place our movie stars on pedastals, and no matter how many great movies they’ve starred in and directed, they will face the same God when they die as we do. The Bible clearly tells us about the choice that each one of us is given about our eternal destiny. We’re all responsible for our own decision. Don’t let Hollywood make that choice for you. And, by all means, let’s pray for Eastwood. He’s been confused about the truth of God and the church is partly responsible. He just turned 80. It won’t be too much longer before he’s standing in judgment, facing the God of this universe who isn’t impressed at all with his long list of great movie accomplishments.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Lars and the Real Girl is about a guy who is extremely shy to the point that he has difficulty interacting with humans, especially women. He ends up ordering a life-size anatomically correct female doll to be his companion. The guy, Lars, believes his new friend is real. With his new companion at his side, he begins to come out of his shell. Much of the movie's humor comes as Lars' family and friends try to accept his girlfriend and pretend that she's real too, all for the sake of Lars.
From a Christian stand point, this movie has a great message about what would Jesus really do. The cast is excellent, especially Ryan Gosling as Lars. The movie was beautifully written and directed. It never went for the obvious sexual jokes that you normally expect from Hollywood, and the story was low key and thoughtful all the way through.
On my two scales of 1 to 250, I'll give it 235 for entertainment value. and another 235 for moral character. There were a few minor sexual jokes about the doll, but it's hardly worth mentioning. My total score is 470.
It is worth mentioning that Lars made a point of not living in the same house with his girl friend until they were married. Good job Lars, and great job Hollywood for this one.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Event is about some supernatural event that took place in 1944. The U.S. government is trying to deal with that event in the present. It's hard to say what that event really was because the show is explaining it a little bit at a time each week. All I can tell you at this point is that it involves 2 plane crashes, 97 people who are not human, and a whole lot of secrets and weird going-ons. This show is swimming in bad or shady characters, while there are only a few good characters to root for. A young couple that gets caught in the middle are very likable, as is the president of the United States played by Blair Underwood.
The Event is action from start to finish. The story is told in a series of flashbacks, flash forwards, and present day scenes. It's not a show you can watch casually while doing the dishes. I like all the action and I really don't mind the dis-joined time line. There's enough mystery unfolded each week to keep me guessing and watching.
However, I do have one major problem with this show. In the 3 shows. there has been very little character development. Sure, you could say it's an an action oriented serial drama, so characters are secondary. The problem with this show is that the characters are barely even there at all. This bothers me because I'm having trouble connecting with any of the characters. Yes, there are some likable characters, but that doesn't mean we care about them. We don't know enough about Sean or his girl friend Layla to really care if they ever find each other again. All we know about the President is that he's good looking, confident. and he has a pretty wife and a son. That's not enough to create an emotional attachment with viewers. It might work in an election but a drama on t.v. is a whole different thing.
If this show fails to build an audience. I'm sure it will be because of the lack of strong characters. Lost was a great serial drama because the producers knew the importance of strong characters. The action on that show never moved forward without digging deeper into the background of at least one member of the ensemble cast.
To sum up; The Event is very strong on action but weak on character. My score for entertainment value is 148 out of a possible 250. My score for moral content is 205. There are lots of shootings but not a whole lot of blood. There have been a couple of messy knife killings. The sex content is almost non-existent so far. My combined score for The Event is 353.
I'm not ready to give up on this show yet. I'd like to learn more about the mysterious group of people and the event. I just hope the producers will start giving us a few breathers in the next few episodes where we can get to know the characters a little better.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Either leave a comment here or on the Scott Cahan Facebook page telling me what your favorite movie is. If you have more than one, list them all. I'll give everyone a week or two to get their votes in and then post the results right here at Watcher500.
For this poll, I'm not necessarily looking for family movies. We're just looking for favorites, no matter how clean or not clean they are. Any movie you want to list is fine here from any decade.
So, here's your chance. Let the critics know what movies the people really love.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
However, I could have forgiven all that just for the sake of watching these two very funny actors, if it weren't for this film's tendency to wallow in the dark trenches of human depravity. We watched our heroes get involved with crooked cops, mobsters, a pervert politician, a studly guy who lived for sex, and a loser couple who also lived for sex. All of this was intended to give Carell and Fey uncomfortable situations in which to react and be funny. But it was way over the top. They're both capable of making us laugh in simpler, cleaner situations too. Perfect examples are the 2 restaurant scenes toward the beginning when they tried to imagine what other couples might be saying at other tables. Those scenes were funny and sweet.
I give Date night 185 stars for sheer entertainment value, solely on the strength of Carell's and Fey's performances. For moral character, I'll give it 16. That gives it a total score of 201 out of a possible 500.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
I can't go as far as to say it's as good as a Pixar movie, because it's not. But, it comes awfully close, and that says something. It definitely has alot of heart, something I think any movie that aspires to be great must possess. The three little girls are so adoreable and funny, it's hard not to love them and enjoy watching Gru, the main character, fall in love with them too. The other secret ingredient this movie uses very well is the cuteness and funniness of the little yellow minions. They have very little to do with the actual plot, except to make us laugh along the way. And they do, time and time again. They could be seen as a cheap plot device by the writers and director to sucker us all into loving the movie more, but I can't say that, because the device worked so well, I can only say good things about the little yellow guys. They're all my kids talk about.
The other thing about Despicable me that stands out is the slightly different since of humor that the movie has that's different from all animated movies so far. Similar to the Shrek movies with it's different twist on humor in kids movies, this movie delivers it's own twist. I'm not going to attempt to describe it. I'll just say it's refreshing and laugh-out-loud funny. I also loved Steve Carell's voice as the main character. His strange European accent made many normal lines much funnier. The kids and I havent' stopped talking about our favorite scenes yet and it's been 3 days since we went. Despicable me is a great movie experience, worth sharing with the whole family.
Monday, July 12, 2010
The series can all be bought on DVD now, even Season 6. the most recent. I work with someone who's going through the show on DVD for the first time and is up to season 3. I can tell she's enjoying it as much as I did watching it on ABC every week. I thought it might be helpful for anyone thinking about buying the series on DVD to have short summaries of each season. This will also give me a chance to put down some of my thoughts and great memories of the show. I'll try my best not to give anything away, because the element of surprise is extremely important with Lost.
Season 1 - This is the season that completely surprised everyone who tuned in to watch the pilot episode about a plane crashing on a deserted island. We all thought we were tuning in to watch a dramatic Gilligan's Island for the new millennium. I wasn't even sure if I was going to stay with it at first. And then there was a scene on that show that completely caught me off guard, and I was hooked. I knew I had to keep watching and I couldn't wait for more. I promised not to give anything away, so I can only say something happens to the pilot of the airplane that will knock your socks off. The rest of Season 1 was full of mysterious happenings and introductions of all of the main characters via flashbacks. Season 1 should not be skipped by anyone hoping to watch the show if for no other reason but to learn the back story behind all of the original main characters. The last episode of the season has several big reveals and cliffhanger moments that guarantee you'll come back for more.
Season 2 - Every season of Lost has a different emphasis, that helps keep the show fresh and non-repetitive. Season 2 will forever be known as the year of the "hatch" in Lost speak. That's because most of the plot developments either happen in or revolve around a mysterious underground hatch that they discover at the end of season 1. The hatch makes for lots of fun mystery and it creates conflict between several of the main characters. Another development that sets this season off from the others is the introduction of the "tail-ees", or other survivors from the plane crash that were in the back half of the plane that landed on the other side of the island. I found their story to be intriguing, introducing us to several great characters. My favorite of these is Mr. Echo. We also get to know Desmond, a key player in the big picture of the show. However, the most important character to be introduced during season 2 is Ben, the leader of the others. I won't say how he's introduced or what happens with him, since that would give away too much. But, just keep an eye out for him because he's great, and you'll soon learn to love/hate/love/hate him. There were a few plot lines that seemed to go nowhere that I could have done without, but overall, season 2 was a great year for Lost.
Stay tuned for more Season Summaries of Lost
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I have not read the books, but as far as the movies go, they have an appeal that few movies can achieve. They offer something for both sexes. I don't mean to over-generalize and sound sexist, but generally speaking, women like their romance and men like to see some action enhanced by special effects. The Twilight series delivers on both accounts.
Now, I must pause for a moment and say that there are definite spiritual problems with the series that many Christians may have a problem with. For one, the vampires are all souless dead creatures, even the "good" vampires. The biggest problem for me is Bella's spiritual apathy. All talk of God or heaven and hell is just a nuisance to her. However, we've obviously decided to go ahead and enjoy the series even with it's flaws. For Christians who are secure in the truth, and who aren't easily confused by such Hollywood twisted spiritualism, the Twilght series has much to offer. It's given my wife and I something fun to do together that we both enjoy. I can't wait to see what happens in the 4th and last movie. In the mean time, Eclipse will be playing in my living room soon when it comes out on DVD, over and over and over.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Before that day, I was a little skeptical about a third enstallment of the great Toy Story story. The original Toy Story set the bar at a high level for all animated movies to come, especially for all Pixar movies. Incredibly, Pixar has continued at that high level of pure clean entertainment for something like 15 years now. Toy Story 2 was, in my opinion, even better than the first, although I will always hold the original movie up as the classic of all computer animated movies just because it was the first. To me, it's the equivalent of the Beatles arriving on the world's pop music scene in the early sixties and completely revolutionizing the whole industry, upping the antie and changing the game for every musical act that followed. That's what Toy Story did in 1995.
Part 3 might be the best of them all. I am still amazed at the incredible writing that went into this story and kept me guessing every step of the way and enjoying every minute. By the way, every member of my family seemed to be as enthralled in this story as I was. I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it yet, but not only did I laugh out loud and watch with amazement, but I also had a lump in my throat in one scene, and I literally had tears during another. And it was all for a story about toys that are alive and just want to be played with. Most men would be embarrassed to admit how much they love the Toy Story movies. I'm not because they truely entertain me, and I can watch them with my wife and kids. It doesnt' get much better than that.
I hope to reach two kinds of entertainment fans. The first is parents of kids who are old enough to understand what's on t.v. That's something like 3 and up. Adults without kids can't really appreciate how much it matters what your kids are watching until they have kids of their own. I can't tell you how many times I've asked adult friends who either don't have kids or their kids are grown and married, about a movie. I'll ask them if it's appropriate for kids and they'll say, "Oh, yeah. There was hardly any bad stuff in it." Then I get it home and the family are watching it and we have to turn it off 15 minutes into it. Those adults just don't see it with the eyes of a parent. I'd like to help you adults out there who need a review from the eyes of a parent.
The 2nd group is Christian adults who love movies or t.v. or music like I do, and want to be careful what you allow into your head. Even though I'm a parent, I do watch different movies when I'm alone or with my wife that I wouldn't watch with my little ones. I think that's a normal distinction for Christian parents. But, even when the kids aren't around, I still want to be careful. I think there are plenty of other Christian adults out there who are in the same situation.