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How to Train Your Dragon-a review

  • April 5, 2010 8:17 pm

This weekend the family went out on the town and saw How to Train Your Dragon, and in 3D no less.  I haven’t seen a movie in 3D since I was six or seven-if I even saw one then.  I honestly can’t remember.  The glasses have improved on a grand scale though, acting like real sunglasses instead of the paper ones with a red square and a blue square.  It took the entire movie for me to adjust to the 3D aspect, but towards the end I was thoroughly engaged in the intensity of the picture.

The storyline was fantastic.  Awkward teenage boy trying to please his father, finds his own way by meeting and taming a dragon, boy has to own up to his true self.  That’s a brief summary of the premise, but the emotion thrown in with the dragons, and the humor in the dialogue is so worth even non-matinee prices.  We laughed along with our kids as the boy developed a relationship with his dragon, and then took the lessons from that relationship into his school world as he “battled” other dragons.  There was even a little awkward teenage romance thrown in for effect.

Finally, an animated kid movie worth looking forward to the DVD release!

The Lightning Thief-a review

  • February 28, 2010 9:47 pm

This weekend, all five of us adventured to the movies to see Percy Jackson & The Olympians, The Lightning Thief.  Based on the book by Rick Riordan, the movie’s plot focused on Percy Jackson, the mortal son of the Greek God Poseidon.  That said, the story was set in modern times but based on Greek Mythology.  The plot weaved the two worlds constantly, and it didn’t take long before the audience accepted the premise, and went along for the ride.  During that ride, Percy Jackson was accused of stealing Zeus’ Lightning Bolt, thus causing Zeus to declare war on Poseidon.  To circumvent this war, Percy and his fellow “Olympians” battled mythical creatures like Medusa in their travels to find and hopefully return the Lightning Bolt in time.

I was highly skeptical of taking my younger kids to see this movie, given its PG rating.  We are a PG kind of family, even bumping the bar up to PG-13 on occasion with movies like Harry Potter and Transformers.  BUT, there have been a few times when my hesitance was warranted.  I specifically remember putting my foot down on seeing Monsters, Inc on Ice.  You laugh, but we were having a Monster issue at the time, and while they didn’t live in our closets, I was certain that show would plant that seed, thus increasing our Monster Factor.  Guess what?  I was right.  That week, after the show, Monsters moved into our closets.  But, my husband assured me that Percy Jackson would be fine, and the boys would enjoy the action and adventure, so I caved. 

I’ll admit.  There were definitely a few images when both the boys and I covered our eyes, but even my youngest was quickly pushing my hands out of the way because he “had to see the good guys win!”  We also had my daughter practically narrating every scary point before it happened because she’d read the book.  So, that was a bonus.  I personally liked the head’s up when Percy was headed to the Underworld.  But, overall, it was not any more intense than Harry Potter, and listening to my daughter explain the relationships of Greek Mythology to my boys was kind of amazing.

So, if you’re a little brave, I’d definitely recommend this one (finally)!  It was overwhelmingly better than The Squeakual, and I’m even thinking of stealing my daughter’s copies of the book series because I keep wondering about Percy Jackson’s future training and adventures.

A Star Trek Education

  • January 31, 2010 8:28 pm

Friday, we rented the new Star Trek for Family Movie Night, and it was awesome!  It was so awesome, we watched it again Saturday morning before our usual basketball game extravaganza.  The plot centered around the original cast, and how that cast became a crew and friends aboard The Enterprise.  The new actors in the original character roles did a fantastic job portraying the essence of those characters, and it made us fall in love with them all over again.

I’m not a true “Trekkie,” but my dad is, so the Star Trek theme song was always background noise in our house.  I knew about Spock, Captain Kirk, Scotty, Bones, and about going where no man has gone before.  I can incorporate the phrases “beam me up Scottie,” and “I’m givin’ her all she’s got” into my everyday language, and after watching this new version of an old favorite, my husband and I decided we needed to pass on the tradition to our kids.

This weekend seemed like the perfect time to enhance their Star Trek education, since the weather temperatures can’t seem to find their way above freezing.   So, we turned Family Movie Night into Family Movie Weekend.  My dad (the Trekkie) owns the complete set of Star Trek movies, so we quickly confiscated them, and set about for a day of cozy, complete with popcorn and pillows.  We gave the kids some background information about how we watched the TV show when we were kids, and how these movies were released during that time way back in the EIGHTIES.  We started at the beginning with the original movie, but alas, it didn’t quite hold the kids’ attention.  To be honest, I struggled a little with that one.  I guess movie making has changed just a little in the last thirty-ish years.  We moved through the second and third movies throughout the day, with the kids coming in and out of the living room as my husband made fire, and I worked on an online defensive driving class.  Tonight, we finished up the fourth movie, The Voyage Home.  In that movie, the crew traveled back in time to 1986 to retrieve humpback whales to save the 23rd Century earth.  It’s by far my favorite of the bunch, and the kids laughed watching Spock navigate the roads of a punkrocker San Fransisco as he learned to cuss.  They also loved saving the whales.  I think we’re doing good work here.  Serious societal education in progress.

Because, they too, need to live long and prosper.

Motherhood-a movie review

  • January 25, 2010 9:11 am

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My husband rented this movie for me over the weekend thinking that it would be something totally up my alley:  a story of a stay-at-home-amateur-writer-to-be mom.  It was a nice gesture on his part, and in theory, he was totally right.  This would be something right up my alley, and the story had so much potential.  It tried to show the everyday excruciatingly disheveling mundane tasks that moms stomp through on a daily basis, but just came up a little short.  At one point, Uma Thurman pushed her bike through the streets of New York City, sweating as she carried about 10 plastic sacks full of ” crap” for her daughter’s birthday party.  While I could definitely relate to that, all I could think about was what a whipping it must be to live in New York City.   Intermingled in the whippingness of living in the city were Uma’s own thoughts on how to still believe in herself, do something for herself, and yet give so much of herself to her children and her family.  Again, great potential, but a fizzling disappointment.  In the end, we see the family celebrating their daughter’s 6th birthday, and are left with some warm, fuzzy, and yes, almost sappy thoughts on motherhood in general which did leave me with a few tears in my eyes, but there was potential here for big huge snotty tears-the kind only a mother could love.

an unexpected Christmas Movie moment

  • December 21, 2009 11:51 pm

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Tonight, I took time out with some girlfriends to escape the holiday crazies with a little gift exchange, a small sampling of snacks, and plenty of pillows and blankets to cozy up with Love Actually.

It sounds like a chick flick because it totally is, and the message is clear:  All we need is love; love is all around us, complete with The Beatles singing that message in the background.  Doesn’t that just sound like something right up my sappy little alley?  The multiple story lines woven through the plot sounded that refrain again and again, from young, first romantic love to warm, familiar family love, and everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in between.  It was nice to watch a movie during this special time of year with that simple theme in mind, because, as you know, one of my daily goals is to stop down, and take the time to just “be.”  With all the hustle and bustle of not just this season, but life in general, making that time is practically a miracle.  And, when you get right down to it, all we do need is love.  It’s easy.  Isn’t it?

“Because it’s Christmas, and I just thought I’d check.”

Coraline-a review

  • November 22, 2009 9:17 pm

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Last night, my husband rented Coraline for Family Movie Night.  My daughter has wanted to see this movie since its first preview; the boys did not have an opinion, but I did.  It did NOT look like the kind of movie that would leave any of us with warm fuzzies, and more like a movie Tim Burton would enjoy.  But, I was outvoted, overruled, and more importantly, absent during the movie rental process.  So, I went with it.

Big Mistake.

This is another movie based on a book, which seems like a good premise, but more and more these movies are turning out well deserved PG ratings instead of simplistic family friendly cinematic adventures for ALL AGES.  Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is no exception.  This graphic novel won many awards, and being adapted into a movie by director Henry Selick, was an accomplishment on its own.  Therefore, I know the literary community accepted this book, and the cinematic community applauded this movie.  But, as part of just the plain old Mom Community, I can’t do either.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, this story follows a young girl as she explores her “new”, albeit historically old house.  Her parents are self-made workaholics whom mostly ignore her so they can complete their gardening catalog, leaving Coraline to her own devices, thoughts, and dreams.  She finds a “secret” door in this old house, and eagerly opens it one afternoon only to find it bricked closed.  Completely bummed, she retreats to her bedroom and “boring” toys.  Later that night, she follows a mouse as he leads her back to that same door, revealing a secret tunnel to an alternative world.  She bravely crawls through the tunnel to find a mirrored world of her own, only….better.  The house is cleaner, happier, and more festive.  Her “other parents” are more attentive, cook delicious meals, and cater to her every need.  They garden together, they shop together, and her mother arranges daily entertainment with the neighbors.  There’s just one tiny little catch:  they have buttons for eyes.  Which, I guess, in and of itself isn’t that odd, but it does provide a freaky moment here and there as Coraline visits the “other world” trying to decide if it’s better than her own.  One afternoon, again frustrated with her “real parents,” she retreats to the other world, and her “other parents” reveal a secret.  She can stay forever!  Forever in this dream-like place where everything is seemingly perfect, but there is again just that one catch.  She will need to replace her own eyes with buttons. 

This is the point in the movie that all three kids (and, if I’m honest, me) began hiding our eyes at regular intervals until the movie was finally over.  I had to talk my six-year-old off the ledge as he fretted over the safety of Coraline’s parents, and wanted to retreat to his own “safe bedroom.”  Maybe I should have just turned off the movie, and given up on Family Movie Night for one Saturday, but I pressed onward with the hope that this might show him that “everything works out in the end.”  And, I was seriously crossing my fingers that this was an animated adventure that would prove me correct. 

I can say without spoiling anything, that it did work out in the end.  But, in doing  a little research for this post, I realized the book/movie is categorized as fantasy/horror.  A horror?  Yikes.  No wonder it had such a huge creepy factor.  It was a kids HORROR movie.  Good grief.

This seems to be a new trend in animated features, not necessarily the horror factor, but the increased PG ratings, or mature content in general.  Most recently, I shared my thoughts about Where the Wild Things Are, and Kristen over at Shelf Space discussed the newly released Christmas Carol.  So, what’s the deal?  Are the happy-go-lucky days of movies like The Fox and the Hound or 101 Dalmations long gone?  Are we more concerned with fancy computer animation (that in some ways increases the creepy factor) than a feel-good family friendly flick?  Or am I already too old-fashioned, and moaning about what “kids these days” like.

Golly gee, I hope not, but in the future, we might just revisit our own movie shelves instead of taking a chance on one of these new-fangled cartoons.

Where the Wild Things Are

  • October 21, 2009 9:40 pm

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We took a moment today to retreat to “Where the Wild Things Are.”  Only, it wasn’t a true retreat; it was just a trip.  I love this book, written by Maurice Sendak, and though I didn’t have any true expectations for the movie, my anticipation increased as the lights dimmed in the theater.  I’d read a few snippets of reviews, noting that they were filled with mixed emotions, but disregarded the negative comments.  I tend do that-hoping everything just all works out for the best.

In the book, the little boy (Max) has a wild imagination, and gets sent to his room without dinner after being a little too much of a “wild thing” for his mother’s taste. While in his room, his imagination takes him to a faraway place full of huge, hairy, “wild” beasts.  They too like to “rumpus,” and have noone to tell them to stop.  They decide to elect Max their King, and they all rumpus together.  Having fun and “being wild” are their focus, and Max follows along happily.  Finally, Max yearns for home, and finds himself back in his room, where he finds his dinner (still hot).  I know as a kid (or especially a teenager), I would have  loved to escape to my own world where someone understood me, accepted me, and looked to me for guidance.  And, realizing that wonderful place is already right there waiting-like a hot dinner-is more than comforting.  To me, that’s the take home message from this book, and the wonderful characters and illustrations bring that message to life.

I think the movie tried to capture that feeling, but somehow putting it on screen, that message was a little sad.  The first thirty minutes depict a boy struggling with lonliness, and change-both within his family and within himself.  It was harsh, and while I can concede that necessity to establish the intense need for escape, those first minutes were awkward and depressing. Max told stories, and built forts using his imagination, but I think if that had been brought to life before the real “adventure,” the story would have jumped out of the book and onto the screen. 

While “Where the Wild Things Are,” Max meets the beasts of his imagination, which are actually the beasts in his own life, and learns some things about himself in the process.  Looking at it as a work of art, it’s amazing.  Watching it through my kids’ eyes, it’s disappointing.  I’m not sure my kids made the leap that this was Max’s imagination, and then again why he was retreating to this “safe place.”  Because it didn’t feel very safe at times; there are a few “scary” moments for those littler ones, and in that way it does earn its PG rating.  There is some dead time as the story unfolds; it moves slowly and the soundtrack is either absent or infrequent.  In the end, I was left wondering, and my kids had to ask if “they lived happily ever after.”

Ultimately, it was a children’s story with a deeper message.  It is not well suited for children younger than 6 or 7 years old.  My youngest (3) was worried most of the movie about the “little boy getting home to his Mommy.”  My oldest (8) felt sad for the little boy, and hoped when he did get home to his Mom, that they could be a happier family. Older kids would probably clue in to the deeper message, and might get swept up in the imagination.  But everyone should appreciate illustrations coming to life.  Of course, I looked for the teachable moment, and we talked about the differences in the book and the movie.  Ultimately, we decided that we all might have a little “wild” in us, that our “wild” makes us different from others, and that’s ok-as long as there is always a hot dinner (or cup of hot chocolate)waiting when we are ready.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs-a review

  • September 28, 2009 8:15 pm

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This weekend, we had a family date at the movies to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  My husband was skeptical of the “weird” plot and computer animation.  He lobbied hard for Surrogates instead, even citing that both movies played simultaneously, implying he could just slip into the other theater as the movies started.  But, when I reminded him about the “family” part of the date, he conceded to seeing the “weird” movie.  Like Surrogates looks super-normal.  Anyway, my daughter was pumped, apparently she’d read the book.  Shocking.  She reads everything.  The boys and I just along for the ride, happy to be out of the house and looking forward to the prospect of popcorn.

But there seriously should have been a warning label on this movie.  It WAS weird!  The premise started off cooky and fun; I laughed out loud at a few of the one-liners and warmed up to the nerdy main character with his plight to invent something wonderful.  The computer animation added a little pizazz to the “special effects,” and some of those illustrations were just plain funny (example: nerdy guy’s dad).  But, as the meat of the story evolved,  I found myself more surprised with each course, and actually, a little grossed out.   At one point, my three-year old crawled up in my lap, hid his face, and asked to go home.  It was THAT weird!  I seriously wondered if my Diet Coke had been spiked.

I’ll admit, I didn’t do my homework on this one.  Parenting Lesson #419 for me.  Next time, I won’t be so relaxed with a PG rating or “based on a book” plot.  But, the popcorn was good, and the family time was great.  The older kids thought the movie was hilarious, and I never turn down a good snuggle with one of my hoodlums.  But, I think I owe my husband a date night now, and (ugh) he’s going to get to pick the movie.  I’m bracing for more weird.