10 June 2017

Movie Review: "Motocross Kids"

Rated: PG for mild violence and language
Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Alana Austin, and Dan Haggerty
Released: 2004
Synopsis: Evan Hansen couldn't be prouder when his daughter Callie (Alana Austin, Motocrossed) wins a big championship! Unfortunately, just after her victory, she announces that she is retiring from motocross racing.  To find a new champion rider to train, Evan goes back to his old stomping grounds: the Bony Pony ranch.  Unfortunately, he discovers that the beloved place from his childhood is in danger of being overtaken...and by a motorcycle gang, no less! Three kids at the ranch make a bet with the gang members: If the Bony Pony riders win a race, they get to keep the ranch.  Just when victory seems close at hand, their champion rider sustains a debilitating injury! They'll need to find a replacement, and quick...but, who--or what--will it be?

The Good: As extreme sports movies go, this one was pretty good.  The BMX action was on point, and the plot kept me interested, even though the conclusion was pretty much as expected.  Unlike many films, this one did not betray its MPAA rating; everything stayed within "PG" boundaries.

The Bad: Despite its great production values and clean content, this film still seemed a bit lackluster; then again, I'm not much of a sports fan, so, what do I know? Even though I enjoyed it, I kind of wish I had gotten it from the library instead of buying it.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None.
  • Nudity: Midriff and brief cleavage.
  • Language: One d-word; one bleeped word during the outtakes at the film's end; other than that, language is limited to name-calling and euphemisms such as "heck" and "jeez".
  • Violence: Rough-and-tumble sports action, including one accident that leads to a broken arm; a barroom brawl that is not bloody or graphic, but still a bit drawn-out.
  • Drugs: None.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The motorcycle gang is a bit scary, and the jeers they make at the heroes smack of bullying; the accident scene involving the broken arm; scenes of emotional intensity.
Conclusion: Even though I'm not a sports fan, I am a movie lover, and I can appreciate a well-made film with sports as its theme.  I've watched and enjoyed other similar flicks, including both ones made by the Disney Channel (Double Teamed, Motocrossed) and ones from other studios (Hoosiers, The Climb).  While I probably won't watch this one again, I enjoyed seeing it over the past seven days.  Unless you're a complete motocross fanatic, I can only recommend renting this, though.

Score: 3.5/5

03 June 2017

Movie Review: "La La Land"

Rated: PG-13 for some language
Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Released: December 16, 2016
Synopsis: Mia (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man) is a barista with one very big aspiration: to become an actress in Tinseltown.  Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a big jazz fan with hopes of opening up his own jazz club one day.  When they meet, love blooms, and they soon become an item...but, when problems arise, their relationship is soon put to the test.  Can their love survive in the midst of their grand aspirations?

The Good: I'm pretty sure this is the first movie I've seen that was even nominated for Best Picture since Toy Story 3.  Usually, I avoid such flicks for obvious reasons, but, my sources said that this was cleaner than usual for "PG-13" fare, so, I checked it out.  Production-wise, I wasn't disappointed.  An excellent soundtrack, great acting from the two leads, exhilarating visuals...what's not to like?

The Bad: As good as this is, I do have some complaints.  While this is not one of those should-have-been-R films, discerning viewers may take issue with this movie nonetheless.  There's right many profanities, including one f-word, and the two leads have an implied sexual relationship outside of marriage.  One scene even shows someone flipping someone else off, which is later repeated in a flashback.  Outside of the content, despite the appearance of this film as a musical, much of the storytelling is done via instrumental montages.  [Spoiler Warning!] The biggest issue I had, though, was with the ending.  An epilogue that tells us what happens "five years later" doesn't make any sense; we see them going on a date at a club, then their future is laid out before us, then they're on the way to the same date again.  How did this get nominated for Best Picture? [End Spoilers]

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: An implied sexual relationship between the two leads.
  • Nudity: Women are seen in bikinis at a pool party; Mia wears some backless gowns.
  • Language: Eight or so misuses of God's name, including two "g------ms" and one "my Lord".  Four s-words, four a-words, one d-word, one p-word, and one f-word, alongside two middle-finger gestures.
  • Violence: None.
  • Drugs: People are seen drinking alcoholic beverages in several scenes.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Multiple scenes of emotional intensity.
Conclusion: Unless they fall into the superhero, sci-fi/fantasy, or Christian genres, I rarely watch "PG-13" films.  Among discerning viewers and possibly others, movies with that rating are known for getting the reaction, "That should have been rated 'R'!" While I wouldn't say that about this flick, I still didn't enjoy it that well.  Even with the language and sexual implications eliminated, it wasn't that great of a film, especially when it came to the ending.  If you haven't seen this yet, I would caution you: No matter what your rules are about what you will and won't watch...you can do better.

Score: 2/5

Movie Review: "Repeat Performance"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove Approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Joe Manning, Lisa Crittenden, and Christopher Page
Released: 1996
Synopsis: Things have not been going well for New Zealand teen Sean Purchase (Joe Manning).  Not only did his mother leave him when he was only seven years old, but his father recently committed suicide, leaving his father's girlfriend as his sole guardian.  Just when things seemingly can't get any worse, Sean's so-called friend Aaron hits and kills a child with Sean's car...with Sean in the passenger seat! With the police on the lookout for him, it seems that he has nowhere to turn.  Will he ever be proven innocent?
From World Wide Pictures.

The Good: For a 1990s Christian movie, this is actually well-done.  The actors all do very well, and the plot kept me involved.  Having New Zealand as the setting adds a bit of charm.  Even the closed captioning--which has been either absent or poorly done in many an "inspirational" film--was very good in this movie.

The Bad: Despite the production values, this still doesn't go down as one of the best Christian movies I've seen.  It's rather short--barely over an hour, counting closing credits--but, the biggest complaint I have is the ending. [Spoiler Warning!] The plot threads are left completely unresolved.  Did Sean face community service, jail time, or neither? Did Aaron ever confess his mistake? The film doesn't say! It's almost like an unfinished product, which is disappointing. [End Spoilers!]

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: It is implied that Sean's mother and father are both in illicit sexual relationships.
  • Nudity: None.
  • Language: Name-calling, at worst.
  • Violence: A man commits suicide (implied); a kid is hit by a car and killed (not graphic, but intense); chase scenes involving a kid running from the police.
  • Drugs: Two teens drink, and end up in an automobile accident as a result.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout, especially regarding the death of the child; a kid seems to consider suicide.
Conclusion: World Wide Pictures is a movie ministry of sorts sponsored by Billy Graham, who gets a few minutes of screen time in this film.  As a Christian, I feel conflicted by this film; the wonderful production values make me proud, but the briefness of the movies and the inane ending upset me.  Even fans of Christian cinema may feel disappointed; I know I was.  It's a shame that a film with such potential was ruined like this.

Score: 2/5

31 August 2016

Movie Review: "The Prince & Me"

Synopsis: Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles) is a girl with a dream: After finishing medical school, she wants to travel the world practicing medicine.  Soon after starting college, she meets a guy named Eddie, and they soon fall in love.  What Paige doesn't know is that "Eddie" is really Edvard, Crown Prince of Denmark, and heir to the throne.  When Paige discovers who her lover really is, she isn't sure what to do.  Will she become the Queen of Denmark, or is becoming royalty too much for a girl from small-town Wisconsin?

The Good: Like many romantic comedies, this film has quite a few moments that were cute or sweet, if not both.  Eddie's dedication to Paige is admirable, and Paige herself is likable.  The actors all did very well, and the soundtrack was fun.  There weren't many profanities, which is surprising, because...

The Bad: This movie definitely pushes the envelope when it comes to "PG" films.  It's rife with sexual content, featuring everything from a discussion of a one night stand to near-intercourse to a remark about homosexuality.  Drinking is also seen throughout, especially by the college students.  It's films like this that make people not trust the MPAA ratings.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Several scenes of passionate kissing that are either interrupted or cut away from; a scene where two college students nearly engage in sexual activity, but are interrupted; a college girl discusses a one night stand with a much older man; a guy asks a girl to remove her top, though she declines. 2/5
  • Nudity: The female protagonist is seen in everything from bare-midriff outfits to low-cut tops to off-the-shoulder gowns; the prince is seen shirtless and even in his underwear. A scene shows college girls stripping, though critical areas are blacked out. 3/5
  • Language: One use of the s-word; at least as many usages of the d-word, h-word, and a-word; about five or so misuses of God's name. 3/5
  • Violence: Mostly comedic pratfalls, though some guys do get into a brawl where nobody is killed. 4/5
  • Drugs: Drinking throughout. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The fight; some emotional intensity. 3/5
Conclusion: How many times has a movie come out with one rating, only for everyone to say it should have been rated something else? It happens all the time with "PG-13" films, especially comedies, which is why I generally don't watch flicks with that rating unless they fall into the sci-if/fantasy, superhero, or Christian genres.  It also happened with "PG" films ranging from Apollo 13 to Prince Caspian.  This is yet another example of movie ratings gone wrong.  Discerning viewers can do much better.

Score: 2/5

16 August 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": Volume Five

Synopsis: The heroes in a half-shell are in for more crazy adventures in this fifth volume of their original cartoon series! Whether they're fighting a robot that was programmed with their ninja skills, trying to get a samurai rabbit back to his own dimension, or falling for a deadly female ninja hired by Krang, these twelve episodes are chock-full of adventure, fun...and pizza! With their rodent sensei Splinter, and their friends April O'Neil and Casey Jones, it'll take everything the Turtles have got to defeat Shredder and his minions...but, will it be enough?

My Review: I love pretty much all superhero cartoons; in fact, it was the 2003 incarnation of this franchise that led to me discovering series such as these.  While this one does lack some polish--the animation is rough at times, and the characters' voices, especially Shredder's, seem to vary from one episode to another--it still manages to be quite fun and exciting.  The heroes are likable, the villains despicable, and the plots keeping you wondering what will happen next.  Of course you know the Turtles will win; the question is, how? I'm glad I have plenty more DVDs of this series on hand!

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A kiss on the cheek; "bimbo" is used as a slang word for a woman. 4/5
  • Nudity: April is briefly seen in a bikini. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling and euphemisms such as "butt" and "heck" are used throughout; someone misuses God's name, albeit in French. 3/5
  • Violence: As usual for a series like this, "fantasy violence" is present throughout.  The Turtles, the villains, and various other characters hit, kick, punch, throw, etc., each other countless times.  The good news is that nobody, not even the defeated enemies, dies, and the Turtles try to solve problems as non-violently as possible. 3/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, some of the villains, particularly the Rat King and Leatherhead could be scary. 3/5
  • Other: Occasional crude/bathroom humor. 4/5
Score: 4.5/5

17 June 2016

Movie Review: "Goosebumps" (2015)

Rated: PG for scary and intense creature action and images, and for some rude humor
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, and Odeya Rush
Released: October 14, 2015 (theaters)
Synopsis: Zach Cooper is bummed, big time.  He just started at a new school where the assistant principal is none other than his mother! Worse yet, he meets a pretty girl next door, only for her creepy and seemingly insane father (Jack Black) to hide her in his house! Determined to find out the real truth, Zach discovers that the guy next door is none other than R.L. Stine, author of the best-selling Goosebumps books! When they open a manuscript, it sets free all of the monsters Stine created, who are bent on destroying the town.  The only way to stop them is to force them back into the books that once contained them...but, with the monsters bent on staying free, it'll take everything they've got to save the day and their town.

The Good: What a ride! This is one of those stories that grabs you and doesn't let go.  While the ending may be obvious--don't the good guys always win in films like this?--it's still full of thrills and adventure.  I don't normally do scary stories, but I didn't find the monsters in this movie to be all that frightening; maybe if I were still eight years old, I'd feel differently.  A fun cameo from the real R.L. Stine, great special effects, and even a little romance...what's not to like? Well, nothing, except...

The Bad: There were too many misuses of God's name within the dialogue, which was unfortunate, considering that there wasn't much other profanity.  That may ruin this film for some viewers.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Three scenes involving teens kissing, more than one of which is passionate; two or three stray sexual remarks, including one involving pedophilia. 3/5
  • Nudity: A girl in a low-cut dress. 4/5
  • Language: One usage of the h-word; ten or so misuses of God's name; harsh words include "shut up" and "imbecile". 2/5
  • Violence: Though there's no blood or gore and no apparent deaths, this movie is rife with violence.  People are frozen; vehicles are wrecked; monsters are blown up; buildings and other structures are destroyed, etc. 2/5
  • Drugs: A stray drug-related remark. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: As you'd expect from a movie like this, scary monsters are seen throughout.  There is also some emotional intensity. 1/5
  • Other: Some of the monsters are disgusting as well as scary; the kids in the movie lie to adults. 3/5
Conclusion: Despite being a longtime avid reader, I have never read a Goosebumps book.  I've always had a low tolerance for scary stuff, and even more so when I was younger, which was when the books first became popular.  I never even saw the show; when I saw the advisory coming up that it was "inappropriate for children under 7," I turned the TV off.  Still, per the recommendation of a friend, I checked this movie out...and I'm glad I did! It reminded me of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, a favorite film from my childhood.  Maybe now that I'm older, I should check out some of Stine's books.  Who knows? I might enjoy them!

Score: 4/5

08 June 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "Gargoyles": The Complete First Season

Synopsis: In tenth century Scotland, Goliath and his band of gargoyles protected their castle...only to be betrayed and turned to stone via magic by the humans they trusted.  Over a millennia later, billionaire Xanatos buys the gargoyles' now-ancient castle...and ends up breaking the spell! The gargoyles are now free to explore New York...but not all is as it should be.  Not only are there still plenty of bad guys around, but Xanatos isn't all he claims to be.  With the help of their friend, NYPD detective Elisa Maza, the gargoyles are determined to fight for all that is good...but, in a big city like Manhattan, they could be in for the fight of their lives.
Featuring the voice talents of Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek: The Original Series), Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and screen legend Ed Asner.

My Review: I never watched this show when it was on back in the day, but, honestly, I don't think I would have properly appreciated it back then; as an adult, though, I had a blast with this one.  The heroes were admirable, the villains despicable, the animation spot-on, the voice work great...everything about it was fabulous.  It was a bit edgier than I expected--see below for a further explanation--but still fun and exciting nonetheless.  Fans of '90's kids' series should definitely check this one out, if they haven't already.  Better yet, one episode has a very poignant moral--guns are not toys!--and the characters don't fail to mention Goliath's biblical namesake.  All in all, great stuff.

Content Concerns: The main concerns here are the violence and the dark settings.  The former is never gory, but a couple of scenes are bloody, and one such sequence gets repeated in a flashback; the latter is seen throughout, as most of the show takes place at night.  Some of the gargoyles could be too scary for young children, as well.  A human character is almost shot dead.  (Spoiler: She recovers from her gunshot wound.) Also of note: A female gargoyle wears an off-the-shoulder, midriff-baring, short-skirted outfit.  She isn't in every episode, but right many of them.  For millenials like me, these are small potatoes; however, you may want to think twice before showing it to your young children.

Score: 4.5/5