Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Noah (PG-13, 2hrs 18Mins)

2.5 stars

With all the news coming out about “Noah” and the buzz that has everyone talking about it, it’s not surprising that it was the number one film last weekend.  It does have some merit to it.  Darren Aronofksy put his own version of the story on the screen.  The studio even made sure people knew this by releasing a disclaimer about the film before the movies debut.  Of course that did help the buzz surrounding “Noah” churn even more.

Aronofsky though decided on what he wanted to do and stuck with it.  I will give him credit for that.  The studio did take the liberty of doing some test screening s of different cuts of the film behind his back.  He was not happy about that but the eventual release of the film was Aronofsky’s version.

What he did was at times a beautiful and moving film but at other times just did not make sense.  I realize this is the director’s vision of the story, and I may be called narrow minded for my opinion, but if Cecil B. Demille can stick to the biblical account why can’t Aronofsky? 

If you are going to do a bible story people will want a representation of that story.  Aronofsky did stick to the story but deviated a little from time to time.  Noah did receive visions and I felt this was represented very well in the film.  Also the scenes of the animals coming to the ark were very well done.  They were what gave the movie an epic feel.  I know the animals were computer generated but the scenes of them coming to the ark were magnificent.

I don’t agree with some the interpretations that the director made though.  The giant rock creatures did not seem right to me.  They seemed to be more appropriate for a Michael Bay or Peter Jackson film.  But I can see past them.  There are “Giants” mentioned in the bible so that could be one interpretation of that.

I hate revealing plot point in films because they should be revealed on the screen as the director intended them to be revealed.  So I will only say that portions of the film do not agree with the biblical account of the story.  In fact they differ quite a bit.  This was a sore point for me as I was hoping there would be some return to the origin of the story.  That though was not the case.
If you choose to go see Noah, and many people have.  Go with the right frame of mind.  Do not expect that the director will stick to the biblical account.  In his defense it is a very small portion of the Bible and so he did have some gaps to fill.  Also remember the details you read in the bible are not necessarily going to be shown on screen.

I was intrigued by “Noah.”  I did enjoy a majority of the film and felt that at times I was watching something moving.  After seeing it though, I am not sure I would go back to see it again.  I feel conflicted by this film, but that does not mean this is a bad version of the story of Noah.

‘Noah’: 3 points for parents
Violence – In silhouette, Cain hits Abel and kills him.  Raiding parties kill as they wish.  Giant rock creatures kill humans with weapons.  Hand to hand combat with and without weapons.  Some people think it their right to kill as they wish.  Humans are traded for food.  Animal sacrifice is performed.  Some other animals are harmed.  None of them are real.  Babies are threatened with death.

Gore – Blood is shown in pools.  A girl has a large wound in her abdomen.  The ground a man is standing on is saturated with blood.  A weapon has blood dripping from it.  Bodies are shown underwater in a vision and in a pit in another scene.  A woman steps in a metal trap.  People are tossed about by flood waters.  There are some wounds shown.

Nudity – Only shoulders are seen as a woman and a man begin kissing and then get more passionate.  A woman sits up in bed showing her shoulders, but lower she is covered by blankets.   A man is lying face down on a beach, nude.  He is seen from a distance


Divergent (PG-13, 139 Minutes)

3 stars

The latest Young Adult dystopian society romantic survival book turned film is called Divergent.  Many people are interested in this film, mostly to see if it does well after all the other movies of the same genre that have preceded it.  This does have a somewhat built in fan base after the trilogy of books that have come out.  Seems kind of formulaic, or to be more precise Hollywood.  They always love a trend on which they can capitalize.

On its face this seems like a film that the filmmakers would cheapen by changing much of the book to fit the film into a nice little mold that they feel will sell really well to the audience.  After seeing the film they did better than that.

If you have read the book you know that this story is set in a Chicago that has fallen apart and is still recovering 100 years after the war.  There are five factions that people are assigned to when they reach the age of 16.  A test is administered that determines which of the 5 factions you belong to.  The next day is the choosing.  The day in which you choose which faction you will join for the rest of your life.  It is suggested that you follow the results of your test but you are free to choose whichever faction you wish to join.

Beatrice Pryor took her test but her results were inconclusive.  The test did not reveal one single faction that would be best for her, instead it showed three.  This is known as being Divergent, and that is bad.  If you are divergent the government cannot control you and make you do its bidding.
Beatrice grows up in the Abnegation faction which is a group that is selfless and puts the needs of other before themselves.  On the day of choosing Beatrice selects the Dauntless Faction.  These are the protectors of the collective group, the warriors who are fearless.  When she joins the group she changes her name to Tris.

Tris and the other initiates must go through training to become full members of the faction but not all of them will make it.  In the training the Dauntless look into your brain and see your fears.  This is bad for Tris because she may be revealed as divergent.  She must hide this fact and she gets help from her trainer Four.  Yes the number four, it is his nickname.  She and Four have a connection and I doubt you need to know more than that.  If you read the book you do know more.

Despite being part of a genre that is not known for making great films, this is not a bad movie.  It isn’t great either but it is better than one might have thought.  The filmmakers did follow the book fairly well with some changes to the story that were not drastic.    There are some cheesy moments but nothing like the angst of “Twilight.”  Plus the story does not really get physical except for the fighting that takes place.  

When it comes to violence this film does contain a lot of it.  As such many feel this film is much like “The Hunger Games” As you can see below the violence takes on many forms, and some people do die.  This film does overcome its formulaic base though and becomes somewhat entertaining.  The characters are interesting enough to draw you into the story and make you care about them.  Plus you may start caring for the relationship that is starting.  Of course you will have to wait to see whre it ends after all this is a trilogy.

‘Divergent’: 3 points for parents
Violence/Gore – Many fights resulting in injuries, some severe.  Violence used for intimidation. Characters are trained in combat both with weapons and hand to hand.  Many injuries and bruises are shown.  War games are held with dart guns.  Knives are thrown at people.  Crowds are seen being made to kneel with guns drawn on them.  The body of a man is shown after he has jumped down into a chasm.  Innocent people are shot.  No shootings on screen but there is before and after.  Some characters must shoot family members in a simulation.

Language – Some profanity.  Many threats and belittling of other people. 

Nudity/Sensuality – A man removes his shirt to show off a tattoo.  Men and women share a dorm room and must change in front of each other.  Some kissing that is passionate but is stopped.  A man forces a woman onto a bed but the scene stops, no clothing is removed. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted (PG, 107 Minutes)

3 Stars

The biggest question I have been asked since seeing the new Muppet film, “Muppets Most Wanted,” is how it compares to the first one.  Which in itself is an interesting question since this is the 8th feature film the Muppets have done.  Of course the last one, “The Muppets,” was considered a huge success.  It was very entertaining and had some very funny moments.
So is this one just as good?  Yes and no.

This new film picks up right from the end of the last film.  In fact it starts from the closing shot of the last film as the actors, dancers and extras clear the set.  The Muppets gather together and realize they can take their new show out on the road.  Instantly it seems a man appears named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais).  His last name is pronounced bad – ghee, its French.  He is hoping the Muppets will hire him as their manager who will work alongside Kermit to make sure the tour is a success.  
Unknown to the group Dominic is working with the world’s most dangerous frog, Constantine, who has escaped from Gulag 388 in Siberia.  He looks familiar except for one mole above his lip.  After he escapes he corners Kermit and slaps a mole on him so they look exactly alike.  Kermit is then arrested and put into the Gulag.  Constantine schedules the tour dates for the groups into theaters next to museums and banks that he and Constantine are breaking into.  Soon Interpol is on the case and they find the connection.  

There are many cameos and celebrity guests in this film that add to the fun.  Tina Fey is funny as the warden of the Gulag.  Plus somewhat hidden in the mix of prisoners is Ray Liotta who does musicals numbers in the Gulag.  The audition scenes are very comical.  They even have Usher playing an usher, kind of corny but done well.  Miss Piggy even has a fairy godmother who sings with her by the name of Celine Dion.

There are many other cameos that are funny, but this film does not quite measure up to “The Muppets.”  Yes it does have some very funny moments, but the magic of the last film does not make an appearance in this one.  I did not feel as drawn in to this story as I did when Jason Segel and Amy Adams were fighting for the Muppets to keep their theater.  It may be the bad guy is not quite as mean, but it is not quite the same.

This does not mean that this film is not a good value for your family entertainment dollar though.  My kids fully enjoyed the film and we all laughed a lot, some more than others.  Another bright spot is the Pixar short at the beginning of the film.  It is a Monster U story called “Party Central.”  It is very funny.  This is a good film for the family, but do you expect anything else from the Muppets?

"Muppets Most Wanted": 3 points for parents

Violence – A man breaks out of prison and attacks guards.  He uses explosives to get out.  Some slap stick humor.  A character gets thrown back and forth by another.  Explosives are used to break into buildings. 
 Language – No use of profanity.  Some lying and deception by bad guys.
Nudity – Some men are seen in their underwear, long underwear.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Need for Speed

Need for Speed - PG-13 (130 mins)

1.5 Stars

So it seems that as long as you have fast cars and some unbelievable stunts you can make a film.  It doesn’t matter if you have a good story as long as you have the flashy stuff.  At least that’s what it was like watching “Need for Speed.”  

Tobey Marshall is running his dad’s garage after he buried his father.  The shop is in financial trouble but that doesn’t stop him from putting together a car that races the streets of Mt. Kisko, NY.  He of course is the best thing in town and his friends have no problem telling him such.  He does have an advantage with a plane in the air watching for cops and traffic that would stop the racing.

The town folk are not the only ones taking notice though.  Dino Brewster a home town boy who has moved on to racing in the pros asks Tobey to finish building a famous car for a big payoff.  Plus a racing fanatic with an internet show named Monarch, wants to bring him to his invitation only private race, something similar to the Gumball Rally but a serious race.  No really a serious race.
Instead Dino challenges Tobey to his own private race enticing him with all of the money from the sale of the car Tobey built.  Tobey’s friend Pete gets into the race as well but doesn’t make it out.  Tobey goes to prison for street racing and Grand Theft Auto while Dino has quickly found, or paid for an alibi.

Despite the bad story line there are some stunts during the races that are not likely to happen unless all drivers involved know what is going on.  There are jumps and some really impossible timing in driving across the country.   Plus the law enforcement in the story really does not seem to want to catch this guy who is breaking the law.  Nobody seems to see him as he travels from New York to San Francisco.  Except one trooper who falls prey to a car prank we have seen many times in film. 

All of this though, I have been told, is just like the video game “Need for Speed” which the film is based on.  Unfortunately I did not have a controller to change the way the movie went.  If I did, it would have turned out differently I think.

‘Need for Speed’: 3 points for parents

•Driving – Film is based on a racing video game.  Reckless street racing that endangers other vehicles on the road.  A man dies in a violent fiery race crash.  Non racing cars crash and catch fire.  Disregard for law enforcement while racing.  Some officers crash due to racers moves. 

•Language – Some profanity is used.  Male genitalia are mentioned as a measure of toughness.  Cars are said to compensate for other parts of life. 

•Nudity – A man strips while at work.  He kisses a woman and his backside is shown twice.  He walks out to a car from work. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman – PG (92 Mins)

3 Stars

Having been a big fan of the original Peabody and Sherman that was a part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, I was very skeptical of the film version.  The cartoon show was great in small doses of course the segments were part of a bigger show so that was the nature of it.  I was afraid a full length feature would be too much and the story would get lost.

Fortunately, the filmmakers seemed to take my fears into account.  They used the time travel in this film to make what seemed like short episodes but then tied them together with a back story.  All of the bad puns were there, as well as the comedy of the old version.  At the same time there is a little history lesson as you learn about historical generalities.  They do take a trip and visit the Trojan horse but I doubt the soldiers inside were as ridiculous as the ones in the film.

If you don’t know the back story Mr. Peabody is a dog.  He is one of the smartest beings that have ever lived on the earth.  So smart he has excelled in politics, science, athletics and more.  His most advanced invention is the WABAC machine.  He invented it after adopting a son.  If a human can adopt a dog why can’t a dog adopt a human?

Peabody and his son Sherman take trips back in time to learn about history and start Sherman off right on his education.  Sherman’s knowledge soon lands him in trouble on his first day of school as he threatens the academic ability of another student, Penny.  Penny bullies Sherman and they end up fighting and Penny gets bit.  Just more proof that Sherman, like Penny says, is a dog.  Mr. Peabody invites Penny’s parents over to smooth things out before the social worker comes over to investigate whether or not Mr. Peabody should be allowed to keep Sherman. 

This homage to the original is done in the right way so it is entertaining for the whole family with fun and jokes for everyone.  

‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’: 3 points for parents  

  • Violence - Cartoon violence with pratfalls and slapstick.  One character is placed in a guillotine.  Many chase scenes with the possibility of danger at the end.  Soldiers are fighting in streets of a city.  A man has a taser used on him twice.  A crude drawing of a person being disemboweled is shown.  Two characters are bitten.
  • Language/Humor - No foul language is used.  There are many puns used as well as some bodily function humor, including animal references.  There is one line that could be said to be suggestive but children will not get it.  
  •  Alcohol:  One scene of adults preparing and drinking a beverage.