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

TV DVD Review: "What's New, Scooby-Doo?": The Complete Third Season

Synopsis: It's the last hurrah for this reboot of those mystery-solving meddling kids and that insane Great Dane, Scooby-Doo! Between a video game convention gone awry, a coral monster threatening beachgoers, and a headless snowman preventing a small town from their Christmas celebrations, this season has some of their craziest mysteries yet!
Featuring voice work by Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly), Taylor Lautner (Twilight), and James Belushi, among others.  Also features an appearance by Smash Mouth and music by CCM bands Calibretto 13 and Relient K.

My Review: For the most part, this final season delivers what I've come to expect from this franchise: action, excitement, humor, mystery, and, overall, good, clean fun.  However, I'm kind of glad this was the last season, as the makers seemed to be running out of ideas.  One episode had Fred, Daphne, and Velma seemingly missing in action, though the former character was mentioned in the opening credits.  Another one featured Shaggy as a pro golfer, and showed him and Velma as you've never seen them before; that is, totally unlike their usual selves.  Still, on the whole, this was a nice send-off, though, as we all know, the franchise still continued on after this!

Content Concerns: The main concern is the monsters; though mostly just people in suits, they look and act scary enough that it may bother some young children.  Also, though there's no actual profanity, the characters do have a tendency to overuse the euphemism "heck".  One other thing of note: An episode that takes place on a beach features many people in swimwear, including Daphne in a bikini top, though the animation style makes it a bit less sultry.  All of that is small potatoes compared to the garbage that constantly infiltrates the airwaves today; still, that may be too much for some viewers.

Score: 4/5

23 May 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "Green Lantern: The Animated Series: Rise of the Red Lanterns" (Season One, Part One)

Synopsis: Hal Jordan may seem like an ordinary guy, but he has a big secret: He is part of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic superheroes that defend innocent lives all over the galaxy.  When he is called into duty, he soon discovers that his arch nemeses, the Red Lanterns, are bent on killing millions and eradicating the Green Lanterns for good.  It's up to Hal, fellow Lantern Kilowog, spaceship intelligence system Aya, and former Red Lantern Razer to put a stop to them once and for all...but, will their combined power be enough?

My Review: Despite this series only lasting one season, it got a DVD release...but, I'm not complaining; it's a lot better than the live-action film starring Ryan Reynolds.  The animation is fabulous, as is the voice work.  All of the episodes kept me involved until the end, and, despite this being the first volume of the only season, things resolve quite nicely in the final episode.  Superhero fans know what to expect from a series like this, and that's what they'll get...but, that isn't a bad thing.  Even if you didn't care for the live-action treatment Green Lantern got, you'll probably enjoy this.

Content Concerns: Along with the expected action violence--come on; this is a superhero series!--some of the aliens are rather scary-looking, particularly the spider ones in one episode.  Also, two episodes feature buxom female aliens, and one of those episodes features Hal's Earthling girlfriend in a sultry outfit.  Young kids may not notice it, but some viewers may feel it to be inappropriate eye candy.

Score: 4/5

21 May 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward: Future Shellshock!"

Synopsis: A technological mishap brings Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo a hundred years into the future! There, they meet Cody Jones, son of their allies Casey Jones and April O'Neil.  With all sorts of new technology, the year 2105 feels like a completely different world...but, there are still plenty of bad guys to fight.  Whether they're battling against body-snatching alien technology, reading a diary of events that take place after their return to 2005, or guarding Cody on a moon base, there's plenty of action and craziness to go around!

My Review: The other DVD of this season was among the first ones I reviewed on this site, and the one that woke me up to superhero cartoons in general.  That may make me biased, but, I still very much enjoyed this first half of the Turtles' sixth season.  The action, the animation, the voice work, the stories...all wonderful.  I know some fans of the franchise derided this season, but, I love it; if you haven't seen it, you should give it a chance.  The only complaints I have are a lack of closed captions and subtitles and it being a bit edgier than I expected; see below for details on the latter.

Content Concerns: The rating on each episode warns of "fantasy violence," and there's plenty of that here...but, what would a superhero show be without it? What surprised me was the scariness of some of the villains, and the episode where the Turtles turn into freaky monsters.  Even more shocking was the language; though there was no actual profanity, the word "shell" was used at least one or two times per episode as a euphemism for other words, i.e., "What the shell?", or "Let's kick some shell!" Some profane expressions are left unfinished, such as, "What the...?"

Score: 4/5

(This is my four hundredth review!)