Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Movie Review: No Good Deed - PG13

Terri is a wife and mother of two, living in Atlanta when Colin, a charming but dangerous escaped convict, shows up at her door claiming car trouble. Terri offers her phone to help him but soon learns that no good deed goes unpunished as he invades her home and terrorizes her family.

The story is very well done.  Many movies today include gratuitous violence and/or unnecessary gore.  There is indeed some violence, but only what is needed to tell the story.  That is one content warning, and the other would be some language.  

Both Taraji Henson (Terri) and Idris Elba (Colin) are Very Good in their roles.  The suspense had me on the edge of my seat.  

A Very Good movie.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Movie Review: November Man - R

Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is an ex-CIA agent lured out of retirement for one last mission, to protect an important witness.   This mission puts him at odds with his  former friend and protégé, David Mason.   There are a couple of good twists, so that you don't know who can be trusted.  You will be on the edge of your seat.

The story is very well-written and engaging, and the acting overall is credible and entertaining.  Brosnan is especially good as Devereaux.

Content warnings include violence,  some language and 2 brief bed scenes.

A very entertaining movie for adults.  Not recommended for children.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Giver - PG13

Set in the future, the government has created a seemingly ideal society.  They have done this by eradicating a lot of memories,and also  parts of our history, that they deem harmful.  Everyone is seen in black & white, to avoid any differences between people.  When students finish school, the government assigns them a profession to pursue.  Jonas is designated as the 'Receiver', meaning he will be the only one with access to memories, which will be shared with him by the 'Giver' (Jeff Bridges). Every part of society is overseen by the government, specifically the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep).   The more Jonas learns, the more he realizes what society is missing.  

A well-written story, and Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep were particularly good in their roles.   I believe the story also makes a good point of the dangers of government having too much control over people's lives.  

I highly recommend The Giver, especially for adults and young adults.  There was no objectionable content, I'm just not sure if younger children would understand the nature of the story.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall - PG

Jim Caviezel plays Bob Ladouceur, the coach of the Spartans.   Bob tries to teach the team more than just football,  but principles, many faith-based,  that will help them in life.  

Much  of the story is about their 151 game winning streak.  It was surprising to see the impact that the streak had on the team and the whole town.  There's even a team member who is after a personal record.  It is especially rewarding to see a couple of team members take what Bob has taught them to heart.

Laura Dern, who plays Bob's wife Bev, does a good job of balancing her support for the team with her concern for Bob.  Michael Chiklis is good as Terry Eidson, Bob's assistant coach who is really supportive of Bob.   But Caviezel steals the show with his heartfelt portrayal of Coach Ladouceur.

WTGST is a very good story, much of which has to do with choices, and deciding what is most important.  

An excellent movie for the whole family.  My brother and my nephews really liked it too. :)



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rire Pagliacci; Robin William’s Secret Sorrow

Driving home late on Monday evening, I tuned into a conversation on local radio about Robin Williams, and my stomach twisted in premonition of a tragedy, which was later confirmed when the conversation turned to asphyxiation. The word ‘suicide’ was never uttered, but I knew enough about my favorite actor to know that it was a real possibility. I remember hearing that Williams, an upper middle class boy in 1950’s Chicago, had trouble keeping his mother’s attention. In order to gain it, he learned to be entertaining. Extremely entertaining. As we know, this became his life’s work: Gaining and keeping the attention of millions of people around the world by his rapier wit, spot on impersonations, and hilarious physicality. Apparently the comedy was not enough to sustain him.
No one could approach William’s manic sense of humor, which he learned from comedian, Jonathan Winters. In an interview, Williams said of him, “It was like seeing a guy behind a mask, and you could see that his characters were a great way for him to talk about painful stuff.” 1. The two comics had “painful stuff” in common; Winters spent years of his life in a mental institution with several nervous breakdowns, and now the world is mourning Robin Williams who unable to escape the grips of alcoholism and deep depression, has committed suicide. The two had similar styles, manic humor, remarkable impressions, and peeking out from beneath it all, a pathos that they could not hide. Jonathan Winters died last year of natural causes at 87, surrounded by his family. Miraculously, he overcame the pain masked by his comedy. We now know that Robin Williams was not so fortunate.
In the opera Pagliacci, Canio, the main character, is a clown in a travelling show who overhears his wife, Nedda pledging her love to another man just as the show begins. The couple act in a play whose plot centers around her infidelity, and Canio cannot bear it: He sings the heartbreaking aria, “Vesti La Guibba” where he states the dilemma of how the clown acts funny to hide a broken heart.
The people pay you and you must make them laugh.
And if harlequin should steal your columbine, laugh,
You’re pagliaccio (clown), and the world will clap for you!
Turn into banter all your pain and sorrow,
And with your clown’s face hide grief and distress...2
 I think that the overwhelming grief and shock expressed around the world at Robin William’s suicide, is not only because he was too young at 63, or that he took his own life while his career was still wildly successful: It was reported that he has six films coming out after his death. I think our grief at his death runs much deeper. At some level, we all hide internal pain, and many of us, transform ourselves into clowns in public, entertaining our friends and even strangers with comic routines to mask our suffering. Some of us find comfort in faith to feel loved and hope in a better future. Most of us are blessed with family and friends who lift our spirits and our self-esteem. We need the attention in varying degrees, but most of us, do not need the attention as much as Robin Williams did, and none of us are as incredibly funny as he was. The world knows that he was one of a kind.
We needed his twinkling eyes, his impeccable timing and his rapid fire wit to help us forget our melancholy. We related to his vulnerability and his kindheartedness in films like “Good Morning Vietnam,” and “Patch Adams.” Robin Williams in his emotional openness; admitting his struggles with substance abuse publicly, his three marriages and his last ditch attempt at rehab in July, is our Everyman. We wonder at how much silent suffering he endured as we were laughing and silently feel guilty because, as his first producer Gary Marshall said, “He could make everybody happy but himself.”3.
We can’t help but wonder if we knew Robin Williams personally could we have helped him overcome his demons by letting the funniest man on earth know that he would still be loved even if he weren’t funny anymore. Too many Hollywood idols become just that, larger than life idols to whom we don't allow to own their humanity.
Dee Dee Harvey sums it up in the comments on Deadline Hollywood:
What can one say? I was shocked. People think being famous is so great. Not me. To be ON all the time, to be zoomed in at all the time… With the Internet and instant posting who can really take it? Please people give Stars their much deserved space. They are people just like everyone else. They need to go to restaurants, be with their kids, live live! Just leave them alone! Maybe then, and only then, we won’t lose people prematurely. Let them live!!!!4.
Robin, you made us laugh and taught us how to give to others with your acts of charity to the homeless, to veterans, and sick children. You needed our laughter to help mask your pain, and we needed you to make us laugh.
We hope and pray that you are making the angels laugh in Heaven and, once in a while, look down upon us and forgive us for not loving you enough.

1 http://www.metrolyrics.com/vesti-la-giubba-pagliacci-leoncavallo-lyrics-luciano-pavarotti.html#/ixzz3ACI2etjL. 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Winters
4. Ibid

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Movie Review: And So It Goes - PG13

Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is obnoxious and self-centered.  He's a real-estate agent, and his goal is to sell one last house and retire alone.  His life changes when his estranged son drops off a granddaughter he didn't even know existed for him to care for.  Oren relies on his quirky neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton), who soon bonds with Sarah.  

Douglas is good as Oren, but Keaton is somewhat disappointing as Leah.  She is good-hearted, and a lounge singer and many times, she can barely get through a song without crying;  that gets old quickly.

Oren does gradually warm to both Leah and his granddaughter.  

An entertaining, heart-warming story.

Content warnings include one bed scene (no sex shown) and a few moments with crude humor and language.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - PG13

Set in the future, but the year was not specified.   There are many more apes than humans at this point, but the apes have not yet dominated humans.  The backdrop is that humans wiped themselves out through war.

One of the main themes is how fragile peace can be.  There were humans that want peace, and those who don't.   Likewise, there were apes who want peace, and those who don't.  For much of the movie, peace was hanging by a thread, and could be so easily derailed by those who oppose it.  

There were two things I didn't care for:  the political nature of the story, which was not necessary, and the fact that it put apes on the same level as humans, which they are not: only humans were created in the image of God, and only humans have an immortal soul.

Overall,  I did enjoy the film for what it is: entertainment.  The special effects, specifically the realism of the apes, are very well done.

Content warnings include violence, and some moderate gore. The  'Fword' was used, only once.  I saw it with my nephews (16) and they liked it too.

Movie Review: Ragamuffin

This is the story of Rich Mullins, a contemporary Christian musician.   Rich grew up on a farm, and it seemed that every time he tried to help his father, something would go wrong.   This led to a very strained relationship  between Rich and his father, and a lot of insecurity for Rich throughout his life.

I found Rich to be very self-righteous and judgmental, labeling most Christians as insincere and hypocritical.  There is a lot if irony in that statement alone;  He acted like he was the only 'honest' Christian.  Much of Rich's music was negative, which I believe was a reflection of his troubled past, and several people encouraged him to write more positive, uplifting music, which was appropriate, given that there is nothing more 'positive' than God loving us, and us loving God.

I will say that I admire his perseverance in his belief that God loves him, despite his failings, which is most certainly true.  He was strongly impacted by a preacher who coined the term 'ragamuffin', meaning those who humbly ask God for forgiveness.   

Overall, an inspirational film which overuses negativity.  The main point I came away with is how much God loves us, which is a good point to convey :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Music Review: Eventide by Voces8

This is the first album by Voces8  that I've had the opportunity to review.

Eventide is  a blend of chant and classical,  performed mostly in Latin, and some in English.  

The title theme of eventide is present in a few tracks:  Where I Sleep, The Seal Lullaby,  Underneath The Stars, and also Reflexionem.

I especially enjoy the hymns to our Lady,  Second Eve and Ave Maria.

Some of the adjectives I would use to describe Eventide are spiritual, soothing, and meditative,  the kind of album that can bring you closer to the Lord.

I highly recommend Eventide; it is a beautiful work.

Below is a sample.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Movie Review: America: Imagine the World Without her - PG13

This is more of a documentary than a movie, and in it Dinesh D'Souza discusses some of the 'atrocities' America has been accused of, ironically enough,  by enemies within, who actually reside in America who want to tear her down and 'remake' her while enjoying the liberties and freedom she offers.

These absurd accusations include 'stealing' this country, 'stealing' Mexico,  slavery, and the 'evil' of Capitalism (LOL)

The main critics of America that D'Souza focuses on are Howard Zinn, whose leftist attacks on America have , unfortunately, become required reading at universities in this country and Saul Alinsky, who has motivated such radical leftists such as Obama and Hlilary.   The most shocking point in the whole movie is that a very long time ago, Hilary was a conservative, but she was influenced by Alinsky.

D'Souza presents the issues America faces in a serious and  realistic, but not fatalistic fashion.
I  recommend America for all, as those who agree with it will be encouraged, and hopefully those who disagree may be educated :)