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Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Movies of 2010

According to, these are the top movies in North America for 2010.

1. Toy Story 3
2. Alice In Wonderland
3. Iron Man 2
4. Twilight Saga: Eclipse
5. Inception
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
7. Despicable Me
8. Shrek Forever After
9. How To Train Your Dragon
10. The Karate Kid

This was a strong year for computer animation. The fact that so many were box office favorites is a tribute to how much the quality of animation has improved over the last fifteen years. I'm talking more about well written scripts and strong characters than the computer technology, although that's also very impressive. We can all thank Pixar for raising the bar for everyone by putting out a string of near perfect movies, beginning with Toy Story in 1995 and continuing to this year with Toy Story 3. The other animation studios are definitely upping their game with better and better movies. How To Train Your Dragon is possibly the best thing Dreamworks has ever put out. Despicable Me is also extremely good and a favorite of my family. It was put out by Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures.
Family movies also did very well this year. All but Inception has appeal to families (Eclipse, HP and Iron Man 2 barely make the cut, but they do appeal to families). I hope Hollywood takes note. Why waste money on trash like Love and Other Drugs, Skyline, The Expendables, or any title with the word Saw in it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Movies

It seems that we now have every Christmas movie imaginable. What with Hollywood re-doing every classic story with modern twists, and the Hallmark Channel giving us a zillion movies about Santa falling in love. It’s easy to get lost in the blizzard of holiday entertainment. If the storm is overwhelming you and you’re ready to say “enough is enough, let’s get back to our usual fair of hopeless, excessive, big-budget movies”, then let me remind you of some of the Christmas movies that are still worth seeing. Here are my favorites.

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

3D Is Killing Movie Theaters

3D movies have been around since I was a kid. About every 8 to 10 years, it seems, Hollywood would come out with a new 3D movie and proclaim that movies would never be the same. Supposedly, 3D was the next step in movie evolution. Every time it turned out to be nothing but a cheap gimmick and the American public barely even noticed.
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.

Surprised by Tangled

I had low expectations for Tangled. The trailer made it look like a computer animated B-movie. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was fun and charming with well defined characters that you either love or hate. The story was far more intricate than I expected with lots of action, touching moments and laughs a-plenty. In fact, I will go as far as to say, it's the best thing Disney has put out since Lion King, of course taking all Pixar movies out of the equation (Disney just owns Pixar. They are really two separate production houses, although the head of Pixar, John Lasseter, is now overseeing Disney movies too and it shows.) I believe, with Tangled, Disney is back on their A-game. We even have our first CGI princess. Rapunzel is everything and more that a Princess should be; beautiful, sweet, naive and longing for the life she never had.
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


In this 2010 television season, the show Fringe is the sci-fi action drama to watch. It even has an excellent serial element to keep me coming back week to week to see what will happen next.
I watched Fringe sporadically during it's first 2 seasons, but this year I've watched every show faithfully. This year, the Fringe division has gotten involved with a parallel universe where there are identical people living similar lives. Our heroin Olivia tangled with her counterpart and ended up switching places with her, not by her choosing. For the entire seaon, our Olivia has been trapped in the other world while the shady Olivia #2 is in our world carrying out an evil plan. As the season goes on, we're getting treated to alternate shows between the two worlds; two different Fringe divisions that do practically the same thing but every one is different.
It's been intriguing watching our Olivia struggle to get back to her world. It's been equally fun seeing the bad Olivia acting like the good Olivia while doubting her resolve to follow through, and watching Peter and the gang wonder what's different about her.
The show still gives us a weird crime case to solve each week while continuing the serial drama. I'm very impressed with the writing, the acting, and of course with the show's creator, J.J. Abrams. He gave us Lost, the best series ever and I've heard his show "Alias" was also very good, but I've not yet had a chance to check it out. I also loved his movie "Cloverfield". Keep it up J.J. And keep it up Fringe. It just keeps getting better and better.
My Watcher500 score for the current season of Fringe (so far) is 225 for entertainment value and 180 for moral character. It's definitely not for kids, but it's relatively mild for adults. Just a few gross out effects with very little blood. Three times this season, we've seen people get hit by cars or busses. Those scenes were very disturbingly realistic, but not excessive. The other issue that should be noted is some occasional spiritual talk that assumes God does not exist. Total score = 405.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Horror Movies, My Top 5

I don't watch many Horror movies these days. Mostly because I have kids and I worry about the kinds of images they take into their brains. Kids don't make as clear of a distinction between real and make-believe as adults do. Therefore, I do my best to avoid giving them nightmares about zombies or werewolves.
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.

2. "American Werewolf in London" (1981) This was the first movie to effectively combine comedy and horror. It also broke ground by using popular songs to score scenes of horror. It's a wild ride of laughing hysterically one second and then jumping from fright the next.

3. "King Kong" (1933) I'm not sure if this truly is a horror movie, but it's definitely a great monster movie so it has to be on my list. I find it amazing that it was made in 1933 and it's still a thrill to watch. The 2005 version was a good remake, but the original is still king in my book.

4. "The Fly" (1986) Well directed by David Cronenberg and Jeff Goldblum gave the performance of his career.
The movie wasn't so scary, but creepy and sad.

5. "Alien" (1979) A horror movie set on a spaceship, what a brilliant idea. Plus, the alien monster was horrifying and like nothing else in movies at that time. The movie took it's time and built suspense. setting every scene up perfectly. Equal parts horror and science fiction, it doesn't get much better than that.
Looking back at my list, I see that I'm dating myself by choosing movies that all came out in the 70's and 80's. To remedy that, I'll mention that I do have a couple of recent favorites that belong on this list. "District 9" and "Cloverfield". I highly recommend both.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hereafter and Clint Eastwood

The movie Hereafter opens in theatres today. Matt Damon is the star and Clint Eastwood directs, so it’s almost a guarantee that it will be an entertaining, well-crafted movie . I have not yet seen the movie, but I read a recent interview with Eastwood, about Hereafter, that is worth noting.
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 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

The Hobbit and Peter Jackson

The Hobbit has finally been given a green light to begin production in February of 2011 with everyone’s #1 pick for director, Peter Jackson. He’s the man largely responsible for the classic adaptation of the 3-part Lord of the Rings series (2001 - 2003). This is great news for fantasy buffs everywhere, and possibly for families with older children. I say “possibly because a lot depends on Peter Jackson’s ability to control his love of over-the-top gory detail in his scenes of danger and peril.

I personally loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, I remember when the first movie came out, my two oldest kids were only 8 and 10. We tentatively let them watch that movie, but realized later that it was a mistake when my eight year old had nightmares about the Gorks in the caves. We were more cautious when the 2nd movie came out (fast-forwarding through some scenes). By the 3rd movie, both kids were more mature, and better able to handle the very real and at times gruesome effects. That’s when Lord of the Rings became a family event, at least for me and my two kids. Fantasy is not my wife’s cup of tea.

I am thrilled that Peter Jackson is returning to direct and co-write the two-part Hobbit movie because I'm confident he understands Tolkien’s vision and will give it first class treatment. My concern about Jackson is partly due to his adaptation of another classic, King Kong (2005). That was an enjoyable movie but definitely not for kids. There were two scenes that I could barely watch. One, the giant bug scene, still makes my stomach queasy when I think about it. It was disgusting, painfully long, and served no useful purpose in the story. Somebody should have had the guts to stand up to Jackson and say, “Not good Peter.” I just hope Jackson regains some self control for the Hobbit. I’ve read the book, and it’s a great story that doesn’t need over-the-top gore. A really cool dragon, yes.

Peter, if you ever read this, please just translate Tolkien’s brilliant story to the screen like you’ve done before. That’s all we want. We know you can do it. I’m looking forward to revisiting middle earth. I just hope I’ll be able to bring my kids with me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Radical Face

Up until today, this blog has been devoted to visual media. However, finding great music in today’s fragmented and leaderless musical landscape is also a passion of mine. When I grew up, the radio stations told us what to listen to. I always saw their playlists as starting points to find what I liked. My tastes usually landed just outside the mainstream. Today, we don’t have a common starting point to find what we like to listen to. We’ve all been left on our own to search for great music. I personally have learned to enjoy the search. As I listen to my Pandora stations and check out samples in the ITunes store, I occasionally stumble upon truly great music. When I find these gems I’ll do my best to communicate my discovery to my readers. Why not? Online communication has replaced radio as the new starting point.

My most recent discovery is Radical Face, out of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Their origins were of particular interest to me as I’m from Jacksonville, Florida. However, I fell in love with this band solely due to their original well-crafted sound. The album is called “Ghost”, released in 2007. It's a concept album about houses and how the things we do in those houses will leave ghosts in the walls. The lyrics are very creative and well thought out. The song are all catchy and brilliant. The thing I love most about Radical Face’s album is the subtle weaving of acoustic guitar, violins, accordion, civil war type drums, flourishes of electric guitars, Ben Cooper’s haunting voice, and a myriad of sound effects. Nothing dominates here, it all works perfectly together to paint images of soldiers marching or chains jangling in the attic. I hope Ben Cooper and Radical Face can find their audience. I’ve been listening to this album for several months now, and it’s turned out to be one of those rare finds that keeps getting better over time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lars and the Real Girl

I watched this movie over the weekend after a friend's recommendation. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this movie is. The premise is strange and will probably turn most people off, especially conservative viewers like myself who try to avoid the weird stuff. But, this is a case where a weird premise is played out in such a sweet and thoughtful way that it's actually one of the most moral stories of the last few years.
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

The Event has been one of the more anticipated new shows this fall. I keep hearing it being called the new Lost. Having been a big fan of that show and of this new genre called serial dramas that was practically created by Lost, I've been looking forward to the Event. I've watched the first three shows of the series and I'm ready to throw in my opinion.
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

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is interviewed in this month’s Vanity Fair. In the interview she’s talking about the early years of her fame and says, “I would look up to those girls… the Britneys and whatever. And I would be like, I want to be like that.” She definitely achieved her goal and worse. In my opinion, her career is one of the greatest disappointments in show biz history. As a father of four, I still feel a mixture of happy and sad emotions when I hear her name. You see, the movie Parent Trap (1998) was one of the great family movies of the last 20 years. I have 4 kids of varying ages, and all 4 have watched it over and over. I remember many nights when my wife and I watched it with them and enjoyed it just as much as they did. Lindsay Lohan was nearly perfect in that movie in every way. I suppose she set expectations too high with that movie, for herself and for her public.

After Parent Trap she went steadily down hill. Lindsay did a few more watchable movies, but her personal life and her career slipped into a waste pool of wild parties, sexual hookups, confused sexual orientation, run-ins with the law, etc. That left me, as a parent, worried about the impact her antics would have, not only on my 3 girls, but on millions more around the world.

I don't mean to judge her personally or say that she is totally to blame. She is, after all, just a confused girl as vulnerable and misdirected as many young girls are these days. It's just that Lindsay was elevated higher than most and given farther to fall. My impression is that her family life was weak and dysfunctional, leaving her alone to face the hooks of Hollywood that were only too helpful in pulling her down to the bottom. When she was selecting her role models, someone should have told her that the “Britneys and whatever” are falling fast themselves and wishing someone had warned them before they'd made the jump.

In the Vanity Fair article, it sounds like she’s beginning to mature and re-think her life. I’ll be praying for her to take the right steps to get back on track. It doesn’t matter if she never does another movie. What matters is that she does grow up finally, and begins to make the right choices in life. I especially hope she’ll choose to give her life to the one who truely does love her, her Heavenly Father above. If she’ll make that choice, she’ll finally have the inner peace and joy that she’s been searching for during her wild ride of a life since Parent Trap.

All of this leads me to make a few suggestions for movies that I’ve found over the years that my girls have thoroughly enjoyed. and I have been excited about the positive influence these movies have had on my girls. I’ll begin with Parent Trap, because I still think it’s a great movie for families to watch together.

2. Akeelah and the Bee (2006) A great encouragement to kids to excell in school.

3. Nancy Drew (2007) This Nancy is smart and she makes being a good girl look cool.

4. Pride And Prejudice (2005) A beautiful movie. It's amazing how even young girls love a good romance.

5. Ever After (1998) Well made, fun Cinderella story. Drew Barrymore at her best.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's Your Favorite Movie?

I love reading those top 100 movies of all time lists that come out every so often. The only problem is, those polls are always compiled by critics. Their idea of what makes a great movie and what I, and the people I know, call a great movie is usually worlds apart. I've always wanted to see what the normal, movie-going public would select as their favorite movies of all time if given the chance. Well, the Watcher500 is giving you that chance.
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

Date Night

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are possibly the two hottest comedians on television right now. The paring of the two in an action/comedy was pure genius. I'm a big fan of both actors and I was looking forward to seeing them perform together. Their chemistry is the best thing about this movie. Without them, Date Night would have been another routine high speed comedy. Some of the action sequences were ridiculous enough to garner a few laughs, but overall, the plot wore thin and the action got tiresome by the half way point of the movie.
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

No Ordinary Family

One of ABC's new tv shows this fall is called No Ordinary Family. I watched the pilot episode and found it to be an entertaining yet flawed viewing experience. I was attracted to the show because I've always been a big fan of superhero stories. I especially enjoy seeing how everyday human beings cope with their super powers. In comic books, Marvel Comics pioneered the concept with Spiderman, a superhero with real human problems. The Spiderman movies were also great human character stories wrapped around thrilling action packed adventures. Heroes is a favorite tv show of mine, and The Incredibles is one of my favorite movies of all time.
No Ordinary Family borrows a little bit from each of the tiltles mentioned above. This show is about a family of four, who go through an experience together that gives each of them a unique super power. In the pilot, they all discover and then try to come to grips with their power. I enjoyed most of the super power stuff. The effects used in each instance were impressive. There's just something inherrently fun about seeing a human being become super. I don't think I'm alone in this either. Maybe it's because we all wish we could be super in some way shape or form.
On the down side, this show tries a little too hard to keep the story light hearted. I wouldn't call it a comedy by any means, but there are plenty of scenes and lines that are intended to make us smile and even chuckle along the way. I must confess, many of those moments were turn offs for me. Especially scenes surrounding the Dad's new super strength. His abilities are truly incredible but most of his scenes are played out humorously, ruining any chance of suspense when he's using his powers.
The best thing about this show is the family element that ties the whole show together. They're an imperfect family with strained relationships all around, but, they're all struggling to reconnect with each other. Their new found powers only magnify their need for each other.
For sheer entertainment value, I'll give it a 149 stars. It was kind of goofy in this opening episode, but I see great potential.
On the Christian Family scale I give it 180 stars. I like the emphasis on family, but I didn't like the bad attitudes of the teenagers, even a few minor cuss words. All teenagers aren't that bad.
So, my Watcher500 total score is 329 stars. The pilot show alone actually deserves lower, but my rating takes into account some great potential I see in this show.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Loveable, Despicable Me

Despicable me is anything but Despicable. It's actually quite loveable. I saw it with my younger kids on Saturday and we all enjoyed it. My older kids have also seen it and it's all they talk about. I love to point out movies that parents can enjoy with their kids and have a great time watching without worrying about bad content along the way. Despicable Me definitely accomplishes that feet.
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.
I give it a 221 for sheer entertainment value. Morally speaking, I'll give it a 205. Combined, that makes a total score of 426.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lost - Season by Season

I followed the Lost series from the incredible pilot episode in 2004 until the finale in May of this year. I consider it to be the best dramatic t.v. series ever broadcast. Never before has there been a show so intricately written with so many plot lines interweaving and keeping us all guessing until the very last episode. Sure, every question wasn't answered but most were, enough to call the show sheer genius. We avid fans kept watching from show to show for two reasons: we cared about the characters, and because we were forced to in order to find out what the heck was going on. The fact that the writers of Lost successfully pulled off both of those reasons the whole way through is what made it pure genius.
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

Eclipse - For Men and Women

I saw Eclipse last week with my wife, part 3 in the Twilight saga. The first movie came out around 2 years ago. The books, a few years before that. It went through my family like the plaque about 2 and a half years ago. At first it was the books, consumed by my wife, my older kids and my mother-in-law in the span of 3 or 4 months. I resisted, not being much of a fan of romance novels. That's what I thought it was at the time. Then the movies started. I'm up for just about any kind of movie, so I gladly took my wife to see Twilight. I liked it, especially the vampire stuff and hint of werewolves. For me, the romance was tolerable since it was wrapped in all of that monster lore stuff. Later, when I saw part 2, New Moon, I liked it even more. I officially became a fan with that movie because it delved deeper into the wolves side of the story than the first one. Now we had lots of vampires and wolves in the same movie. That's much more like a movie I can get into. Oh, and by the way, the love story kicked into high geer too which kept my wife and oldest daughter enthralled. And now, here we are at part 3, Eclipse. I'll sum it up by saying it has more of the same love story and more of the same monster story, but both cranked up couple more notches. The love triangle gets really intense with Edward and Jacob almost coming to blows several times over Bella. At the same time, theres more action in this one than the last. Great stuff all around.
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.
My scores for Eclipse are 199 for sheer entertainment value, and 97 on the moral scale. That makes a totla score of 296.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Toy Story 3

On Father's Day, my wife and kids asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate. My choice was simple; go to the latest Pixar movie with my family. That movie, of course, was Toy Story 3. Before I go on, please note that my kids ages are as follows, 20, 18, 7, and 5. Quite an age range, not to mention my wife and I as the two oldest kids. I love Pixar movies because they are, without exception, movies that my whole family enjoys. Some of my favorites are The Incredibles, Wall-E, and Finding Nemo. I'll write about them in later posts. Toy Story 3 was another great movie. In fact, it may have been the ultimate movie for a family such as mine. We all loved it, from my 5 year old girl, to me the oldest. Sure, I complained about the elevated price of the 3D tickets, but by the end of the movie, I knew I would have gladly paid more for the experience of seeing such a great movie with my family.
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.
This movie will officially go down in history as the first to ever receive the coveted Watcher500 rating of 500. That's right, a perfect score in both categories; sheer entertainment value, and moral content.

The Bright Spots

First, a little bit about myself. I'm a family man with a beautiful wife and four wonderful kids. I'm also a born again Christian. These two factors will have much bearing on my writing. My topic is things relating to entertainment. But, have no fear kind reader. I don't plan to tire my fingers writing about how horrible entertainment is. On the contrary. I plan to point out the bright spots. Those works of digital art that are doing it right. The ones that entertain us with great writing, solid production, and an emotional connection that I can walk away feeling good about for days and weeks later. You see, I love movies. I love television,and I love music. I grew up watching and listening to great stuff, and there's still great stuff out there today. It's just harder to find. I'm always on the watch for that gem of a show or song. When I find it, I'd like to share it with you. I'll tell you why it's good, and where it falls short.
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.