Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Monsters University: Dreams Don’t Come True

pixars_monsters_university-wide

 

Once again Pixar has hit a home run with a new summer animated movie. And this time, the element that impressed me the most was the values running through the movie, not just the visual beauty that Pixar does so well. We took the girls to Monsters University on Saturday and all of us enjoyed another great Pixar movie.

Without giving away too much of the plot, here are the elements we enjoyed most:

  • One character really believes that his dreams will come true if he works hard enough. We’ve all heard the Disney lie before: “If you believe it, you can achieve it.” Amazingly Monsters University tosses this lie and the character realizes his dream won’t come true because he is created for another reason. He finds amazing contentment and consolation in this.
  • Another character cheats and lies yet deals with the consequences of his actions. There is no easy way out. He is punished for his mistakes and has to work his way back up.
  • Uniqueness is valued in this movie and people are honored for who they are, not who they try to be. Sully and Mike find amazing community in a group of misfits who everyone else overlooks.
  • Make sure you catch the Pixar short before the movie called “The Blue Umbrella.” The animation is so incredible that you actually think it is reality. It is amazing how far technology and Pixar have come since the first Toy Story!

With a title like “Monsters University,” I wondered if our daughters would be scared of parts of the movie. They were scared during the original Monsters Inc. Amazingly in a movie about monsters our girls were not scared at all. After last year’s Brave, we were excited that the girls could enjoy this one without being afraid.

Monsters University, the sequel to the successful Monster Inc, is definitely worth packing up the family and spending a few hours caught up in a great story!

 

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Man of Steel: Movie Review

Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) with a young Clark Kent

Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) with a young Clark Kent

Need a great Father’s Day movie this weekend? Catch the new Superman movie Man of Steel and be inspired as a father!

Instead of giving you a long drawn out explanation of the story and give away too many plot surprises, I thought I would just layout some of the elements I loved about the new movie.

  • Inspiring performances by Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Superman’s alien and earthly fathers. The self sacrificing nature of both of these characters is inspiring for fathers. Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent was perfect casting and provides some great quotes on self-restraint.
  • Amy Adams as Lois Lane exhibited strength and great chemistry with Henry Cavill as Superman. She wasn’t a damsel in distress and could stand up on her own two feet.
  • Henry Cavill as Superman was the perfect mix of strength and down home Kansas kid though his man boobs might have been a little too big in the beginning.
  • As a follower of Jesus, I couldn’t help but see the messianic undertones throughout the movie. As Clark Kent (Superman) grows up he struggles to understand his strength and when to use it. In numerous flashback scenes from his childhood, I couldn’t help but imagine Jesus growing up and having those same struggles with his divinity.
  • Soundtrack by the master Hans Zimmer was perfect, lofty and inspiring.

It was hard to watch Superman and not compare it to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy though they shouldn’t necessarily be compared. Bruce Wayne (Batman) is human with technology that makes him a superhero while Clark Kent is an alien that is inherently a superhero. Man of Steel focuses on Superman’s alien nature and his struggle with the alien General Zod. An alien war on Earth brings total devastation while Batman’s struggles with his enemies weren’t as devastating. The panoramic action sequences in Man of Steel dwarf any of the scenes in the Batman trilogy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Man of Steel as a stand alone Superman movie and hope that we get a second movie in this series. Throughout the movie there are references to Lex Luther and Lexicorp so it sets up well for his character in the second movie. I’m also holding onto hope for a Justice League movie (try and catch the reference to Bruce Wayne in Man of Steel – look for the logo on a satellite in space).

So dads, catch Man of Steel this weekend for Father’s Day and you won’t regret it!

Man of Steel and Discipleship

The first time I watched the Man of Steel trailer with Russell Crowe narrating, I listened intently to what he said. After watching it a couple of times, I was struck by the correlation to discipleship and following Christ.

Watch it below and read the narration.

“You will give the people an ideal to strive towards,” he says. “They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

What do you think? Is there a correlation?

Innocence Lost: Watching Movies after the Aurora Theater Shooting

Remember your first time flying after the tragedy of September 11? That tragedy forever changed the experience of flying. Now we look in suspicion at those who walk toward the front of the plane while it’s in the air or at anyone who does anything out of the ordinary.

Now with the Aurora theater shooting our experience at the movie theater is forever altered. Obviously this is nothing in comparison to those who lost loved ones in the tragedy or who were injured. But most of us will never be able to regain the innocence of going to the movie theater.

Last Friday, my brother and I went to see the Dark Knight Rises at Century 16 in Belmar down the road from our house. It is owned by the same company that owns the theater in nearby Aurora where the tragedy occurred. The whole experience of watching the movie was somber. As we bought our tickets and drinks, I couldn’t help but wonder what the employees in the theater were thinking. Were they scared going to work now? Did they know employees from the other theater?

As we sat in the theater, I watched those entering a little more closely than before. Ads during the previews about violent video games struck me as odd. During the movie, I couldn’t help but watch the back door of the theater. Gun shots in the movie were much more vivid and made my heart skip a beat. I wondered at what point in the movie the gunman entered the theater and started shooting.

Will we ever regain the innocence and fun of sitting in a dark theater and enjoying being transported to another world? I don’t know.

In the midst of this horrible tragedy, here are some ways you can give and make a difference for those still recovering from the awful tragedy of the Aurora theater shooting:

Ready to Believe: Anderson Relief Fund

Giving First

Brave Review: Breaking the Princess Stereotype by Dishonoring Fathers

A few months ago when we saw the first previews for Pixar’s latest movie Brave my girls and I were excited to finally see a heroine in a Pixar movie. My oldest daughter Anna loved the scene where the heroine Merida rips her dress to shoot an arrow. Anna doesn’t like princesses so she loved the idea of a princess standing up to what society wanted her to be (though my seven your old wouldn’t quite explain it that way). Read the rest of this entry

Katniss Everdeen: A True Heroine for Girls

Lionsgate Films

As I have wrote about before, my seven year old daughter Anna is drawn to Princess Leia in Star Wars instead of Barbies and pink dresses. Anna says she likes her because she can fight. Instead of pushing her to take the identities that culture wants her to fit into as a girl, we encourage Anna to pursue her passions and develop her own identity. I firmly believe that God gave Anna the same gifts, talents and leadership skills as he would give to a boy. Read the rest of this entry

12 Movies to Watch in 2012

2012 looks to be a great year for movies unless the Mayans are right and the world ends. Since it’s 2012, here are twelve movies to watch, one for each month:

Red Tails – January

Safe House – February

The Hunger Games  – March

The Five Year Engagement – April

The Avengers – May

Snow White and the Huntsman – June

The Dark Knight Rises – July

The Bourne Legacy  – August

No trailer yet but learn more about the next movie in the Bourne series starring Jeremy Renner here

Argo – September

No trailer yet but this story about a CIA agent trying to save six Americans during the Iranian revolution sounds good. Ben Affleck stars and directs this thriller.

Gangster Squad – October

Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling star in this movie about the LAPD attempting to keep the Mafia out of LA in the 40s and 50s. Read more here.

Skyfall – November

Daniel Craig returns to his role as James Bond and the creepy Javier Bardem plays the villain. Find out more here.

The Hobbit – December

2011 in Review: Books, Music, Movies and Television

This being the time of the year when we reflect on the past year in the rear view mirror, I thought I would reflect on my favorite media choices.

Books

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – Having worked for Apple Retail and hearing stories of what it was like to cross paths with Steve, I was excited to read what he was really like. He was a flawed human being like all of us but in spite of those flaws he was a relentless genius.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I just devoured this trilogy over the holidays. It tells the story of Katniss, who is an angst teenage girl who is thrust into the spotlight of competing for her life in a post-apocalyptic world. I can’t wait for the first movie in the series coming out in March.
  • Weird by Craig Groeschel – Hillary and I love Craig’s honest, practical and biblical wisdom. This book was no exception. In Weird Craig challenges Christians to go against the lifestyles of those around us and live like Christ even if it means being weird.
  • The Restless Heart by Ronald Rolheiser – My counselor recommended anything by Rolheiser and this book was definitely thought provoking and soul stirring. Rolheiser dives deep into explaining the soul stirrings that we all have to connect with others and ultimately God.

Music

I’m only including full albums because I firmly believe that artists should be judged by their full albums not just one catchy song that gets radio play.

  • Gungor (Ghosts Upon the Earth) – by far the most innovative and beautiful worship music I have heard in a long time
  • Civil Wars (Barton Hollow) – a group that features a former CCM artist and a Johnny Depp look alike just has to be good
  • Mumford and Sons (Sigh No More) – thanks to Spotify I haven’t had to buy this album yet but once I get the cash I’m springing for it
  • Coldplay (Mylo Xyloto) – the song Paradise is so addictive I keep coming back again and again to listen to the full album
  • The National (High Violet) – The National is my soundtrack for deep thought moments while I drink coffee

Movies

  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – you can’t go wrong with former Pixar director Brad Bird in charge of this movie
  • The Way – Emilio Estevez’s beautiful description of the spiritual journey is well worth seeing
  • I Am – Tom Shadyac’s documentary journey of finding out what’s wrong with our world and how we can fix it
  • The Beaver – I love stories of redemption and this one had an interesting connection to the real world as Mel Gibson played the role of a depressed man trying to find himself
  • Ides of March – this rather depressing and hopeless take on politics played into my current view of selfish, people pleasing politicians who deserve to be unemployed

Television

  • White Collar – my brother-in-law works on the show and we love the intrigue and team dynamics of this show about a FBI agent and “former” white collar criminal working together to solve crimes
  • Parenthood – though Sarah Braverman annoys the heck out of me and I play with my iPhone during scenes with her in it, Hillary and I still love the family dynamics and raw emotion of this show
  • Friday Night Lights – we miss our favorite coach and long for the small town life of Dillon
  • Modern Family – we are in danger of giving up on this show as most of the characters are venturing toward the extremes of their archtypes

The Way: Life is Too Big to Walk It Alone

I love movies that dig deep into the human experience and cause me to reflect on my own life. Emilio Estevez’s new movie “The Way” is no exception. Estevez directed and wrote this movie which his father Martin Sheen stars in. The film tells the story of Tom (Martin Sheen) who travels to France to pick up the body of his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) who died on pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

Tom is an opthamologist whose life lacks meaning and purpose. His wife has passed away and his relationship with his only son Daniel is not a good one. On the golf course, he receives a call that will change his life. His son has died and he needs to pick up the body in France. The viewer doesn’t really know why but Tom decides to take the same pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

The Camino de Santiago is an ancient path to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where it is said that the bones of the apostle James lie. Many people travel this trail for many different reasons. As Tom travels this path, he slowly realizes that the Way is not meant to be traveled alone. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the movie, but Estevez does an excellent job of exposing our need for community.

I don’t like movies that preach. One of my frustrations with “Christian” movies is that the message is so over the top. This movie is deeply spiritual but it does not preach. At one point Sheen’s character says that he isn’t religious and the person he is talking to tells him that the journey on the Camino is not a religious one. There is a deep difference between religion with all its rules and guidelines and the experience of spirituality. As I have read through various articles it is obvious that the themes of this movies come from Estevez’s own spiritual journey.

In an interview with Tim Kelly, Estevez says, “I’m still on a journey. I’ve yet to declare myself in terms of religion, but I think there’s no question I’m on a spiritual journey. As we all are. And I’m very much in touch with it, in ways that surprise me daily.” Read more of this interview here.

I would highly recommend this movie. Watch it twice. Watch it with someone and talk about it. Your spiritual life will be deeper because you watched this movie.

Here is the trailer for the movie

I Am: What’s wrong with our world and what can we do about it?

Increasingly I am finding pockets of God’s truth in places I wouldn’t necessarily expect it. Then the places I would expect to hear Truth, I don’t. Last Friday I watched Tom Shadyac’s new documentary, I Am, which spoke Truth in some unexpected ways.

Tom Shadyac, who directed such films as Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor and Ace Venture: Pet Detective, was experiencing all that Hollywood offered. After a bike accident which resulted in a brain injury, he ventured into his own dark night of the soul. During this time he pondered what his last message to the world might be. I Am chronicles Shadyac’s journey to answer two questions:

  1. What’s wrong with our world?
  2. What can we do about it?
Shadyac and his small crew traveled the world asking scientists, researchers and philosophers for answers to these questions. It amazed me that most of these thinkers were talking about the Christian story even though they didn’t say it explicitly. There were some elements that were New Age philosophies but most of the discussion finds its origin in the Christian story. I found the idea that we are each built for cooperation, not competition to be an interesting idea. Scientists are finding a case for this in nature and even argue that Darwin stressed love and cooperation in his writing much for than the idea of survival of the fittest.
The other interesting storyline through the movie is how Shadyac changes his personal lifestyle as a result of this dark night of the soul. He realizes that he is part of the consumer culture that he is speaking out against and sells his huge mansion. The end of the movie shows him biking into work from his mobile home in Malibu. Shadyac sums up his philosophy with the following quote of St. Augustine, “Determine what God has given you, and take from it what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”
I would definitely recommend the movie to those seeking the deeper things of life. Take in the movie on its own terms and dialogue about it with others. After truly experiencing the movie I know it will change your outlook on life and impact your daily life.
Here’s a preview of the movie: