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Friday, June 10, 2011

Super 8 Review

Super 8 is a fun, roller coaster ride of a movie that hearkens back to the great Spielberg movies of the 1980’s like ET, Jurassic Park, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Although Steven Spielberg only produced Super 8 and it was written and directed by J.J. Abrams, it still has Spielberg’s mark all over it. It's as if Abrams was trying to make a Spielberg movie out of reverence and respect. If that's the case, then he was successful. In the process, J.J. Abrams put his own mark of suspense driven story-telling told through the eyes of characters we can relate to.
What I Liked about Super 8:  The film is set in 1979, a year I remember well having been 16 at the time. I felt Super 8 did a remarkable job at presenting that time in American culture. Not only did he give us the clothes, the cars, even the neighborhoods, but he also gives us an accurate portrait of middle-class, middle school aged kids during that time period. The characters were refreshingly real and I could easily remember scenes from my own teenage years that were remarkably similar, minus the train wreck, the monster and all of the exciting stuff, of course. But, if I had gone through any of the catastrophic events that happen in this movie, I think me and my friends would have reacted and behaved much like the kids in Super 8. My point is they were real-life, not your usual Hollywood cut-out characters. The title Super 8 refers to a low budget zombie movie the kids are making throughout the movie. As superficial and amateurish as their ill-fated movie is, it’s all they care about and it defines their friendship, just like real kids tend to do with whatever they’re into. The budding romance between Joe and Alice was subtle and sweet and expertly acted by Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning.
I also liked that the monster isn’t shown clearly until close to the end. We get just enough glimpses and human reaction shots to keep us begging for more. Producers of horror movies should take note. The kind of restraint shown in Super 8 and Jaws and Close Encounters is what keeps the suspense alive and makes it all the more satisfying when we do see the monster in all of it's glory.

What I Did Not Like About Super 8:  Sadly, J.J. Abrams felt the need to pepper the dialogue with many curse words, most coming from the mouths of the kids. Sure, many teens use fowl language, but not all do, especially not back then. Realistic or not, this movie wouldn’t have suffered at all if the language had been toned down. There are also a few references to drug use by one of the older teen characters.

Who Should See it?  I don’t recommend this movie for younger kids. For once, I’ll agree with the PG-13 rating. 13 and up might be a good rule for most families when it comes to Super 8. Besides the bad language I’ve already mentioned, this movie also has some very scary moments. In this sense, it’s much like Jurassic Park with it’s All-American characters getting chased by something extremely scary. Many scenes had me jumping out of my seat. Plus, the monster is quite large, slimy and disgusting, perfect nightmare material for little kids.
Super 8 shows very little real blood and the gore is minimal. As far as modern monster movies go, this movie is actually tame. Thankfully, Abrams has bypassed the gross-out scenes and worked hard at scaring us silly with old fashioned suspense, off-camera action, and jarring music.

In Summary:  With the exception of the bad language, Super 8 is the first great movie of the summer of 2011. Although the movie trailers emphasize the mysterious monster and the action that follows, this movie is first and foremost about a group of young teens trying to deal with the ups and downs of life. Their world is literally turned upside down in this movie, but they never cease to be the relatable characters that we care about 10 minutes after the opening scene. J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have hit a home run by giving us a truly great movie like Super 8 in a year filled with Hollywood's usual big-budget movies that have predictable, worn out plots. I just hope next time they'll go for the grand slam and leave out the profanity.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lady Gaga

A Christian Parent's Reaction

I’ve been reading headlines about Lady Gaga for at least two years, but I have to admit that I hadn’t heard her music until recently. I was in a bowling alley with my wife and kids and I found myself playing around, moving to the beat of a really catchy song that was playing from a jukebox in the back of the room. My young girls were also having fun dancing to the beat. We couldn't hear the lyrics very clearly. It was mostly just the catchy music that got us going. I asked my 8 year old daughter if she’d ever heard the song before and she immediately said, “That’s Lady Gaga.” I was floored, first because my daughter knew anything at all about Lady Gaga and secondly because I really liked the song. Two more of her songs came on before we left that day and I liked those songs too. My daughter, when questioned further, told me she heard Lady Gaga on her friend's ipod while riding the bus to school.
So, now I find myself in the uncomfortable position of liking the music of an artist who’s music and lifestyle go against everything I believe is morally right. This is an all too familiar dilemma for me or anyone whose been around long enough to see the long list of moral boundary pushers before Gaga showed up. That list includes notable names like Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osborne, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Britany Speers and many more. The comparison that I hear the most about Lady Gaga is to Madonna, and for good reason. Both, in their day, have or had catchy, well-produced music that’s the hottest thing on the charts. Both embrace their sexuality as a tool to sell their music and gain superstardom. Both, also use religious symbolism and controversy to their benefit, again as a means of propelling themselves to the top.

The question I’m dealing with here is how should we parents handle Lady Gaga’s music and the artist herself when it involves our kids. There is no easy solution and ultimately each parent will have to approach their own children based on the maturity of their child and the relationship the parent and child have together. I do have a few suggestions, however, that might help.

Keep The Proper Perspective
Remember, Lady Gaga is not a sign that the world is coming to an end. Her star will rise a little longer and then it will begin to fall. Her decline could be fast like Brittany Speers or Lindsay Lohan, or it could be a slow, steady decline like Madonna’s. Either way, somebody will come along eventually that will replace her as the king of shock and she won't be such a big deal anymore.

Set Ground Rules For Your Kids
If you don’t want Lady Gaga in your home, then set a rule for your kids like No Buying Lady Gaga Songs or Albums, and No Copying Them From Your Friend’s Ipod. It's hard to control what happens at school, but your house is your domain. We don’t have cable tv so watching Lady Gaga videos is not a problem for us. But if we had cable it still wouldn't be a problem because MTV would be banned from my home from day one. You are the parent. You have a right to set rules. You say what’s allowed, not your kids.

Pray for Lady Gaga...No Seriously. I'm Not Joking
Pray with your kids for Lady Gaga. She is, after all, just a human being who was once a little girl too. Somewhere along the way, she got confused about what’s right and what’s wrong. She’s only seeking acceptance and love like the rest of us. Somehow, she’s believed the lie that the only way she can get these things is to be sexy and weird and to oppose Christianity. If she ever grabs hold of the truth, she could do amazing things for God. Teach your kids that no one is out of the reach of the Holy Spirit. The classic example is the Apostle Paul. Read on for a more relevant example.
Remember Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper was the original king of shock art. His lyrics, makeup, and stage show shocked everyone in the 70's and early 80's. I was just a kid but I knew there were was quite a fuss over him and his music from parents and Christian leaders at the time. In fact, it's safe to say the complaints against Alice were louder and more in unison from all directions than anything that we're hearing today about Lady Gaga. Alice was the first and he upset everyone but the kids. Eventually, Alice's popularity faded and along the way, he had a couple of nervous breakdowns. God used all of that to get Alice's attention and sometime in the mid 80’s Alice Cooper had a true conversion and became a born again Christian. He’s still singing his brand of pop metal today, but now his lyrics and stage show are cleaner and purpose driven. Today, he has a heart for reaching out to kids and having a positive influence on them. You can read it all in Alice Cooper’s autobiography Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's Life and 12 Steps To Becoming a Golf Addict. It’s fascinating if you can get through the boring stuff about golf.
I have to confess, I was a big Alice Cooper fan in the late 70's. In fact, I liked his music so much that I remember praying for him to be saved. I swear I'm not making this up. I can't remember praying for any other artist as a teenager. Only Alice. It must have been because everyone around me was saying how evil he was, while I knew his music was so good. Since the bowling alley, I've heard more of Lady Gaga's music on the internet. Everything I hear of her music tells me very little has changed. She is very talented and very controversial. She needs the Lord just as much as Alice Cooper did. Not that she and Alice Cooper need the Lord any more than the rest of us. Sin is sin. Just because some people put their sin on display for everyone to see doesn't make their sin any worse than everyone elses.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The New Three Stooges Movie

Believe it or not, a new Three Stooges movie is in production, set to be released next year. Unfortunately, the original stooges are not available to reprise their roles in this new venture. If they were still alive today they’d be 108 (Curly), 109 (Larry), and 114 (Moe). This new, modern day take on the Stooges will star Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly. It will be directed by the Farrelly brothers. Are you excited yet? Neither am I.
First, let's look at the positive side. If the Farrelly brothers give us a true salute to the Stooges that respects and captures their comedic genius, and they avoid the kind of over-the-top sexual humor they're known for, then I'll become their biggest fan. If they do this thing right I'll go see the movie and tell all my friends to see it.
It's just that I'm a little nervous about any movie made by the Farrelly brothers. Do they have some funny movies? Yes. Dumb and Dumber is a favorite of mine. However, their list also includes There's Something About Mary, Me Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal, Stuck On You, and their most recent Hall Pass. The common thread in all of their movies is sexualized humor meant to be shocking and funny at the same time. My point is not to put down the Farrelly brothers, but to question whether or not they can produce a movie that honors it's subject matter without sinking into the well of sick and depraved humor that they've visited time and time again. There is no need to go there with the Three Stooges. They were funny on their own. They don't need to be modernized for today's audiences, as is the excuse given for many modern remakes of old classics. This should be a movie that is funny simply because it showcases funny people.
Let's hope that Bobby & Peter Ferrelly are approaching the new Three Stooges movie as a way of redeeming themselves in the movie industry. Maybe they'll produce a respectful, clean, honest look at the Stooges that's also incredibly funny. Doing that would be great for their careers, making them accessible to lots of folks who currently avoid their movies. It would also introduce the original Three Stooges to a legion of new fans.

In researching this article, I learned a few things about the Three Stooges. A common perception I hear these days is that Shemp was Curly's replacement. Not so. The original cast was Moe, Larry and Shemp (1930 - 32). In 1933, Shemp left to pursue his own career and Moe brought on his younger brother Jerry, renamed Curly. The stooges were Moe, Larry and Curly until 1949 when Curly left due to illness. Moe convinced his older brother Shemp to return. Shemp came back and did a fine job in the role. When Shemp died in 1955, they became Moe, Larry and Joe for a short time. Then later they were Moe, Larry and Curly Joe.
I don't know how much of their history, if any, will be on display in the new movie. I'm just hoping and praying the Ferrelly brothers do it right. You can do it guys. Do it for Howard, Howard, Howard, and Fine. They deserve it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The King Raven Trilogy

I read this series of books by Stephen Lawhead about a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an action-packed, fun retelling of the Robin Hood stories. The first in the series is called Hood, the second is Scarlet, and the third book is Tuck; each after the key character in that particular book.
Lawhead has done his homework in researching the stories and songs of Robin Hood that trace back to the middle ages. He says no one knows if the stories were actually true or just folk tales of the day that have lived on in different forms throughout the centuries. He also says there are different opinions as to where in the Britons, the legend originated. Lawhead's Hood comes from the tales of the Welsh which seems very different from the Robin Hood that I've heard of in movies. There are still enough similarities, however, to make it feel like a Robin Hood story. This version is wrapped up in a work of historical fiction steeped in realistic detail that brings the Welsh countryside and people to life.
What you'll get in this series is a small group of desperate heroes, fighting the entire British army to save their family, homes and the Welsh way of life. They use their wits, fight with a new invention called a long bow, and pray to God in order to win. The characters are lovable and brave and there are many lighthearted moments that keep it from getting too suspenseful. The character that fills the role of Robin Hood is actually named Bran. The town folk call him Ri Bran Hood which means something in Welsh. The name doesn't really matter though, because in Bran we have a truly great hero to cheer for.
If you can only read one of the books, I highly recommend Hood. I couldn't put it down when I read it. The other two are good as well and really flesh out the full story of how this rag tag group defeated the English army and held onto their land. Hood is the story of how Bran was thrust into the battle and ended up as a Robin Hood type character that gave the people a hero and the will to fight.
Who's It For? This is definitely a series made for adults, but I see no reason why teens and even advanced younger readers shouldn't read this series. Boys especially will love these books. There's plenty of action and heroes that stand for the right things to cheer for. There are several battle scenes that include descriptions of soldiers being shot with arrows. That's the only thing that some parents may want to watch out for. But, I wouldn't hesitate to have my son read this when he was 12 and up.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Comedian Tim Hawkins

One message that I'm passionate about telling anyone who will listen is that comedy does not have to be dirty to be funny. I like to site Lucille Ball, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett and Bill Cosby as examples of successful comedians that had lifetime careers of making people laugh without using vulgar language, sexual innuendos, or potty humor. I'm adding a new name to my list; Tim Hawkins.
Tonight, my family and I watched "Full Range of Motion" a concert film starring Christian comedian Tim Hawkins. I haven't laughed that hard for that length of a time (around 90 minutes) for a long long time. I watched it with my wife and three daughters, ages 21, 8 and 6. All 5 of us enjoyed it immensely, laughing out loud the entire time. My little ones didn't get some of the jokes that were aimed at parents or were reminiscent of the 1970s or 80s, but they still had a great time watching Tim's crazy expressions and movements.

I hate to label Tim as a "Christian" comedian, but about a fourth of his routines were about things that happen in the church or to Christians. The term also fits because Tim's comedy is all clean and flat out funny.
He makes observations about the things we all do that are right on, along with hilarious voices, sounds, body language, and facial expressions. Occasionally he'll pull out his guitar and sing original songs for laughs or spoofs of famous songs that would make Weird Al Yankovich proud.

There wasn't a single serious moment in the entire video. No closing on a serious note as has come to be expected in the Christian world. Every Christian comedian I've ever seen has ended his or her routine with some sort of serious message. Sure, that's a great idea, sometimes, but there are other times we just want to laugh our socks off. Life is hard, even for Christians. Tim helps us laugh and have a good time and stop taking our petty problems so seriously.
I've attached a couple of clips from the movie to give you a taste of the comedy of Tim Hawkins. And these aren't all the good parts. It was actually really difficult to choose from all the good stuff.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Superheroes Coming Soon - part 4

We can't leave out Wonder Woman. She's back this fall in an all new television series. The new actress to play eveyone's favorite female superhero is Adrianna Palicki. Many will know her from the series Friday Night Lights. She's got a new costume (3 different versions so far) and a bigger budget than the old series. The old series with Linda Carter is said to have had  a really low budget which translated into some really cheasy effects like having her spin around in order to change into her costume. I always thought Linda did a great job with what she had to work with but I do recall the series being a little pretty lame. I've included a clip below from that classic series to give us a point of reference. Imagine everything you see in this clip being shown in the new series only much much cooler.
It's hard to say how much different the new one will be other than better effects. One prediction I'll make is that we'll see a much darker version of Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman, just because that's what we get with every hero in every t.v. show these days. I hope the producers will make this one acceptable for the whole family. I'm sure it will be marketed to the kids.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Superheroes Coming Soon - part 3


Summary - Set during World War II, a young man named Steve Rogers is deemed too puny to serve in the United States military. Instead, he volunteers for a top secret military project that turns him into the ultimate soldier. He's a superhero dedicated to protecting his country at all cost. Captain America goes up against a villain named Red Skull and the entire Nazi army.

My Take - Captain America, like Thor due out in May, is a different kind of superhero than we've seen in movies so far. He's created in the 1940s by the US military to fight in a war. He doesn't have the kinds of powers that we expect a superhero to have. No flying or leaping ability. He can't throw tanks around or shoot webs from his hands. The abilities that are presented in the trailer and articles about the movie are incredible determination and an awesome shield. I'm sure there is more that he can do because he's injected with some kind of super serum by the military scientists, and comes out with bulging muscles that weren't there before. We'll have to wait for the movie to find out the full extent of his abilities.
Captain America: The First Avenger has the potential to be really really good. The characters look interesting. The idea of a super U.S. soldier who kicks Nazi butts is worth the price of admission alone. And the story isn't so far out there that we'll have to suspend our brains to accept it. If it turns out to be a well made movie, I predict Captain America will rival the recent Batman movies in popularity. Since there isn't as much sci-fi and fantasy in the concept, it will appeal to a wider audience. Plus, our country needs a hero that stands for good old fashioned American values. Let's hope Captain America is that hero.

Will It Be For Kids?
Because of the patriotic hero element, I think there is a good chance the producers will limit the violence in order to bring in a larger audience. There was no hint of sex in the trailer, so I don't think that will be a problem. However, I'm not naive enough to think that this movie will be innocent. There will be plenty of bad guys killed and usually blood in there somewhere, and really intense action too. I'm sure the little kids will beg to see this movie, especially after they get the Captain America toys in their kid's meals, but parents may want to check the movie out for content before they see it. Check back here at Watcher500 or a site that's always on top of things is

Friday, April 8, 2011

Superheroes Coming Soon - part 2

Summary - This is a prequel to the three X-Men movies that have come out over the past 11 years. This one centers on the first team of X-Men to come out of the Xavier Institute. Specifically, it chronicles the story of Professor X and Magneto as teenagers, discovering their powers, working together against a common enemy, and then ending up as enemies by the end of the story.

My Take - I did not read X-Men comics as a child, although I wish I had. The movies have been well made, especially the first one. If the producers had to keep the series going, I'm glad they decided to do something different this time and go back to the roots of the X-Men. The conflict between the two main characters sounds intriguing. Judging by the trailer, this movie could be very good.
For the Kids? - The trailer looks a little intense, but there's not enough there to really make a judgment. We'll have to wait to see what this movie holds for the kids or not for the kids.

Summary - Ryan Reyolds plays a test pilot who is chosen to wear a mystical green ring that gives him supernatural powers and makes him a member of an intergalactic peace keeping force that fights evil in the universe. Earth is his territory to protect.
My Take - The Green Lantern is a name I've heard since I was old enough to read comic books, but I've never had the pleasure of reading anything about this hero. From what I'm hearing in the wold of entertainment, I'm not the only one in the dark here. I'm sure the Green Lantern has a devoted following but it's nowhere near the size of Spiderman or Batman and the select comic book heroes who've been given the movie treatment. But, that doesn't mean it's going to be a bad movie. It does, however, mean that it won't have as many fan expectations to live up to, and it even has the potential to surprise us all in a good way.
Now that I've seen the trailer, I have a better handle on what to expect. It won't be your average super hero movie. In fact, I predict The Green Lantern will be one of two things; it will one of the best super hero movies ever made, or it will be a huge, expensive flop. I say this because it's heavy on the special effects which are impressive indeed. It looks as extravagant in story and scope as heavy-hitters like Avatar and Star Wars. I'm a little skeptical that it will be able to pull the whole thing off, but I'v also very hopeful. If it's as good as the trailer makes it out to be, then it will be truely great. One good thing this movie definitely has going for it is Ryan Reynolds. He's an excellent actor who ads a real likeable human element to everything he's in and I'm sure he'll be great as our green hero.
For the Kids? - My gut feeling here is that the heavy science fiction in this story may be a little too intense and even mind boggling for many of the younger kids, although teens will do great with it. Some of the alien characters in the trailer are scary and or discusting looking.

Watch for part 3 in this series: Captain America !

Superheroes Coming Soon - part 1

Hollywood is betting lots and lots of money on the superhero genre this summer. At least four big budget movies based on classic comic book series are scheduled to hit the theatres this summer. That can be good news or bad, depending on your taste in movies. Personally, I'm a big superhero fan having grown up reading comic books. I've liked some of the big screen adaptations, while others have greatly dissapointed me. For the most part, I still get excited when I hear that one of my boyhood favorites is finally being made into a movie in this day and age when anything seems possible in movies.

Will this new crop reach the bar set high by Sam Rami's Spiderman and Christopher Nolan's Batman? Or, will they fall flat like Daredevil, Catwoman and both attempts at The Incredible Hulk. An even bigger question for this article to ponder is whether or not these new heroes will dabble in the dark side of humanity like The Dark Knight, the biggest superhero movie of all time. I'll try to give you some heads up on these questions so you'll be ready when they come out this summer and your kids are suddenly begging you to let them go see them.

THOR - May 6th
Summary - A Norse god is cast out of the heavenlies because of his arrogance. On earth, he tries to adjust to the strange ways of humans. With god-like strength and a powerful hammer, Thor ends up defending earth from evil forces.
My Take - I was a fan of Thor as a youngster and I have to say, I'm a little bit nervous about seeing what they'll have to do to him to make him relatable on the screen. He's not your average guy who ends up with super powers like most heroes. He's a Norse god for goodness sake. However, concessions will be made I'm sure and it will probably be a good thing. I say that, because if Thor is to be a success on film it will surely be because the movie will contain rich, well rounded characters. The trailer hints at this with Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Natalie Portman as the pretty human who takes an interest in him. The characters look interesting and well acted. There seems to be some chemistry between the two leads, at least in the trailer. The special effects also look great, but you can bet that if the effects are the star of this movie, it won't last 3 weeks before it ends up in the $5 bin at Walmart.
FOR THE KIDS? - I don't see any hint of the Dark Knight here. It looks as if the worst problem Thor has is a bad attitude toward the beginning and even worse manners. Let's hope this movie is as clean and noble as it comes across on the trailer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games book series is an extremely popular series with today's teens and tweens. It falls in the category of Teen Literature or Young Adult Fiction. It came to my attention because I kept seeing articles in entertainment magazines and websites that heralded The Hunger Games as the next Twilight series, as in the next teen fiction book series that would make millions of dollars as a series of movies. I did some research and found it at the top of teen fiction charts everywhere. When I learned the premise of the stories it sounded so compelling that I had to check it out, partly because I wanted to be ready when the movies hit and my young girls started begging me to read the books, and partly because the story sounded like the kind of story I'd love to read.
At the point of this writing, I've read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the first two books in this three part series. I plan to read the third book, Mockingjay very soon. As soon as I can get my hands on a copy I'll be diving in to see how this incredible series ends. As you can already tell, I'm enjoying the series immensely. I say that from the point of view of an adult who enjoys a good science fiction thriller/human drama. When I switch to my parent hat, I'm a little concerned about a couple of big issues. I'll get to those in a moment.
PLOT SUMMARY - The story is set in the not too distant future when the United States has been divided into 12 sectors that are ruled with an iron fist by the powerful and wealthy Capitol. In order to keep the weaker sectors in line the Capitol forces each sector to send two tributes, or teen agers (one boy and one girl), to an annual event called the Hunger Games. The best way to describe it is to think of our Survivor reality show and imagine the contestants having to kill each other to be declared the winner. Our hero for the whole series is a 16 year old girl named Katniss Everdeen. When her younger sister is chosen to go to the games, she volunteers to take her place. From there we follow Katniss into the games and see the whole gruesome experience through her eyes. It's appropriate to compare the Hunger Games to Survivor because the actual games are played out like an extreme reality t.v. show. Viewers throughout the country are forced to watch every minute, recorded live on hidden cameras inside the games. I'll stop there because I don't want to give too much away.
MY TAKE - The premise of this series is intriguing. The very thought of a young, innocent girl being forced to participate in a game where she has to fight to her death is one of those things that's too sick to think about, but given the chance to see it, I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off of it. That's what happened when I started reading The Hunger Games. Author, Suzanne Collins is so good at putting us inside the head of Katniss Everdeen that we instantly begin to care about her and feel her pain. We also realize early on that Katniss is no ordinary girl. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, are different than the other tributes that we meet. They're both pure at heart in their own way. They have no lust for power or fame or fortune. They want simply to survive and protect their loved ones. This purity, especially in Katniss, becomes more and more important as the story goes on. The well written characters are the star of the show here as it should be in any great story. The games are simply the setting (and what an incredible setting it is) for the inner conflicts that Katniss is forced to experience. I was glad to see that the violence of the games wasn't played up for shock value in any way. Instead, the violence is shown more as an example of how unjust and evil The Capitol is for forcing these young people to participate.
IS IT FOR KIDS? - I'm more concerned about the violence when I think of my young kids reading the books. There are a few scenes where people get killed in particularly gruesome ways.
The premise of the series alone is a problem for young readers, in my opinion. The thought of my kids wrapping their little minds around the idea of innocent teenagers having to kill each other to survive makes me feel a little queezy. I would not want my kids contemplating these themes. So, I would say no to younger kids. Maybe when they're in their teens. I'd have to play that one by ear.
The other issue that a parent should consider is the matter of the two main characters sharing a bed at times. It should be noted that no one in these first two books has had sex with each other. Katniss and Peeta end up sleeping together for comfort. It actually makes sense considering the horror of what they're having to go through. Nevertheless, I wouldn't want my young ones reading this and coming away thinking it's ok to spend the night with a member of the opposite sex as long as nothing happens. Call me old fashion, but I've got to draw a line somewhere. 
MY BOTTOM LINE  - I highly recommend the Hunger Games series for adults and teens, but it's definitely not for younger minds. I also can't wait for the movies. Get ready Moms and Dads. If your kids don't already know about the Hunger Games, they will this time next year.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rango Review

Rango is an off-beat, funny, eye-popping movie. It's not your average CGI movie. In fact it breaks new ground for the genre with clever writing, quirky characters and extremely life-like animation.

Plot Summary: A directionless lizard, who spends his days pretending to have an exciting life with the objects in his lizard tank, ends up stuck in the desert, in a dusty old town that looks like it was pulled straight out of an old Clint Eastwood movie. In fact, every character in Rango reminded me of stereo-typical western characters from the classic movies. In order to stay alive, the lizard uses his only skill of pretending, or acting like someone else. In this case, he becomes a gunslinger named Rango. Before he knows it he's the sheriff of the town and all the odd townspeople, or towns-small-animals, are expecting him to solve all of their problems. The plot thickens and Rango's lies get thicker too. Before he knows it, he finds himself in a heep of hilarious trouble.

What I Liked About Rango: My favorite thing about this movie was the colorful characters throughout, starting with Rango, voiced by Johnny Depp who did a fine job bringing the colorful lizard to life. His characterization brought back shades of Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show. The numerous supporting characters were a smorgasbord of kooky western characters played by rodents, reptiles, amphibians and other weird critters. I liked most of the writing in Rango. Dialogue was more subtle and more intelligent than what we get in the majority of today's CGI movies. You had to listen a little harder to keep up but I found that quite refreshing. I liked the realistic style of computer animation, so real that most of it looked like film. Only the stylized animal characters gave it away. In fact, the real factor was so strong that most of the towns folk were down right disgusting looking. No cute animated toys or fluffy monsters here.

What I Did Not Like About Rango: There was some spiritual talk about "the spirit of the west" that almost ruined it for me. Keep in mind I had my 8 and 6 year old sitting next to me in the theatre. In one scene the characters said a solemn prayer to this spirit asking it for help. There was another scene where one of the bad guys goes into a southern preacher routine as he deceives the crowd by promising a miracle that doesn't happen. Neither scene went far enough to offend me but I felt they were very unnecessary. There were also several minor cuss words thrown in that I wish my kids hadn't had to listen to.

Who Should See It?: Rango is barely a kids movie. In fact, I say it's meant for older kids and adults who are still young at heart. Many of the jokes and lines will go over the heads of young kids. Several of the characters are scary looking and some scenes are intense and could frighten younger kids. My two told me they enjoyed the movie, but I'm sure they didn't get alot of it and I'm a little worried that my youngest will end up having nightmares after seeing it.

Rango is not a perfect movie by any means. It is, however, fun and very original. If you're old enough to remember the classic westerns you'll get an extra kick out of Rango. There's just enough craziness and silly happenings to keep the kids interested but don't bring the younger ones. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Part 2 - Interesting Movies, Coming Soon in 2011

Here are a few more movies, due to open in the next 2 to 4 months, that look and sound interesting. I'm judging them by their trailers and the general buzz surrounding their production. In each case, the proof will come out in the pudding, as they say. In other words, they may all look a whole lot different once we've had a chance to watch them in their entirety. But, for now, it's fun to try to predict where Hollywood will get it right this year.

My first impression when I saw the trailer was that it might truly be the next Twilight. Not as a cheap immitation or just because it's a successful series of novels (as far as I know, it's not.), but because it looks like it will be 50% romance and 50% horror, married together in an intriguing and mysterious story. It's even directed by Cathryn Hardwick who also directed the original Twilight. The other thing it has going for it is Amanda Seyfried. She is one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood right now. In everything I've seen her in (Dear John & Letters To Juliet) she has shined with sophistication and innocence.

Will it be Family Friendly? Maybe. I'm hoping the horror is as tame as it is in Twilight. The trailer didn't suggest any hot and heavy sex scenes, only passionate kisses, etc.
Will it be Good? The production values look first class and the cast looks strong. My guess is yes. I think it will be one of the biggest of this Spring.

This is taken from a classic children's young reader book that my wife and I have read to all 4 of our kids when they were around 6 or 7 years old. It's a fun story that will hopefully translate well to the big screen. Jim Carrey stars which at least means it should be very funny. No trailer is available yet for this film.

Will it be family friendly? Most likely, yes.
Will it be Good? Without a trailer to watch, it's anybody's guess.

One of the great Marvel comic book characters of all time is finally getting the first class Hollywood treatment. There have been lesser, badly produced versions of Captain America in the past, but this one looks promising. I'm excited about this movie because I love comic book hero movies, for one thing. More importantly, though, because this one looks different from all recent heroes who have been translated into movies. Captain America is set during World War 2, a time when patriotism was at it's highest and nobody got upset if you said the U.S. is good and the communists are evil. The actor, Chris Evans looks sufficient for the part. His costume looks cool yet down to earth, and his shield is reported to be awesome.

Will it be family friendly? My gut feeling is, yes. Captain America has never been one of those heroes that pushes the line between good and evil. He's as good as they get, at least that's how he's been in the past. Of course, Hollywood could change things like they tend to do (The Dark Knight anyone?). I predict it will be at least as family friendly as the Spiderman movies were.
Will it be Good? There is a 50% chance. Alot depends on the director for a movie like this. Joe Johnston is taking the lead and his record is ok, not stellar. His most recent attempt was The Wolfman, one of the biggest dissapointments of last year. Hopefully he learned a few lessons from that movie.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 Movies That I'm Looking Forward To

Movie ticket sales are down, but Hollywood magic is still on the upswing. 2010 gave us some of the best family flicks of all time with Toy Story 3, Alice and Wonderland, Despicable Me, Avatar (it started in '09 but most of it's run was in '10), and a few others. I'm anxious to see what's going to hit it big in 2011 and what's going to come and go with hardly a blip on the screen. Here is part 1 of my list of the stuff that sounds good at this point, judging by the descriptions and trailers that are available.

February 2011 - GNOMEO & JULIET

This looks cute and it's a classic love story set in the world of gnomes, you know, the little statues that people have in their gardens and other places. Red gnomes and blue gnomes hate each other. All except a young girl and a young man who fall in love. The trailer looks funny and charming, and it's rated G.
Family Friendly? Definitely Yes.
Will It Be Good? I give it a 50% chance. The production company is an unknown, so it's hard to say for sure.

March 2011 - RANGO

I'm excited about Rango because it looks different from any other animated movie I've seen so far. And the story is unusual. It's a western, done with lizards, snakes, birds, and various exotic creatures. It looks funny in a sublte way, not so much slapstick childish humor that's so common these days. Rango could possibly break new ground in humorous animation. Then again, it could also be boring and bland. My money's on the former. I'm always up for something fresh and creative.
Family Friendly? Most likely. It's rated PG so it may push the limits a little.
Will It Be Good? I'll say it's a 75% chance. The look and the feel of the trailers is one of high quality animation, good writing, and that old time western charm.

April 2011 - HOP

I'm including Hop in my picks for only one reason; it's made by the same people that made Despicable Me. I loved the humor and the style of that movie and I'm hoping it carries on into their newest release. The story is about a man who injures the Easter Bunny and brings him home while it recovers. The rabbit turns out to be a terrible house guest. In the process, the rabbit and the man learn to grow up. Honestly, that doesn't sound incredibly exciting, but I'm hoping it surprises me like Despicable Me did.
Family Friendly? As far as I can tell. There's no rating yet.
Will It Be Good? 50% chance is the best I can do at this point.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS BLOG FOR MORE MOVIES I'M EXCITED ABOUT IN 2011. I promise they won't all be animated.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Cape

The Cape is a new series that began earlier this month on NBC. It's the story of a man who is forced to become a vigilante type superhero in order to clear his name and get his family back. With his new mysterious identity, The Cape, he fights the villain and his corrupt police force armed with a fist full of circus secrets that he gets from an underground band of circus thieves? You know those circus types that hide in sewers and rob banks? Never heard of them? Neither have I but that's beside the point. It works for the show and it provides a decent explanation for Vince's secret weapon; his cape. The cape is definitely cool as long as you don't think too hard about all the things he does with it.
Sure, it's all a little far fetched, but I'm not complaining. Superhero movies are all far-fetched if you think about it. Most are much more out there than The Cape. This show tries and succeeds in being a Batman type hero for the small screen.
I watched the first two episodes and my reaction is mostly positive. The show is fun and has enough heart to make me care about the hero and his family. Speaking of his family, I really liked the strong emphasis on Vince's family. One line says it all. Vince tells Max, "My family isn't my weakness, they're my strength."
It's no secret that The Watcher500 is a big fan of Superheroes. I tend to like a little more of the super in my superheroes than is present in The Cape. I prefer Spiderman over Batman because I like the campy spider abilities that Peter Parker has, as opposed to the wiz kid gadgets that Batman uses. My only problem with The Cape is I'd like to see more in the way of real super powers. However, that's more of a personal taste and not an actual critique of the show. Overall, I really liked The Cape. For a television superhero, it's actually one of the best I've ever seen. I think the series has great potential and I'll be watching to see what kind of story lines develop in the future.
My two scores on the Watcher500 scale of 1 to 250 are as follows: 190 for entertainment value, and 210 for moral value. Some of the fighting was a bit gruesome and bloody, but never over-the-top.