22 November 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "My Christmas Soldier"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for all ages)
Starring: Mac Powell, Frank Brennan, and Silvio Wolf Busch
Released: 2006
Synopsis: It's Christmas Eve, 1943, and young Gordy is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his father's train.  Problem is, with all of the soldiers returning, many of the locomotives are held up.  One train is said to have German passengers, which upsets everyone, as the US is currently at war with the Nazis.  Gordy, however, wants to give the Germans some Christmas cheer, so, he offers them some hot chocolate.  What happens next not only surprises Gordy and his family, but the entire town.
Narrated by Mac Powell of CCM's Third Day.

My Review: This film is short--a mere thirty-five minutes, including the closing credits--but enjoyable as a piece of history.  Those looking for an inspirational Yuletide film will like this.  It may have a bit of a low budget, but, as with other Christian-themed flicks such as Seasons of Gray, its heart shines brightly despite that.  The only warning I must give is that a lot of the dialogue is in German with English subtitles, which may cause problems for those who have trouble reading.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: The term "Kraut" is used as a derogatory term for Germans. 4/5
  • Violence: Discussions about war violence; nothing is shown. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: None. 5/5
Score: 4/5

Quickie Movie Review: "Fred: The Movie"

Rated: TV-PG
Starring: Lucas Cruikshank, Pixie Lott, and Jennette McCurdy
Released: 2010
Synopsis: It's YouTube sensation Fred (Lucas Cruikshank, Marvin Marvin) in his first ever movie! Fred is hopelessly in love with the girl next door, Judy (UK singing sensation Pixie Lott), but Kevin, the bully across the street, won't let him visit her! When Fred finally does make it to Judy's house...he finds out that she has moved! He sets out to find her, but ends up having one mishap after another! Will Fred ever find his beloved Judy?
As seen on Nickelodeon.  Also starring Jennette McCurdy (iCarly) and WWE star John Cena.

My Review: What in the world is this mess? The character of Fred is positively annoying, like a humorless Steve Urkel! He constantly has these weird fantasies, and talks in a way that is positively nerve-grating! Add to that language and other content issues, and this has to be easily one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time! Sorry, Nickelodeon, but you screwed up big time with this one!

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A remark implies an illicit affair.  Judy is described as a "smoking hot babe". 4/5
  • Nudity: Two guys are seen shirtless multiple times; a girl is seen in a bikini; another girl wears a rather short skirt. A guy is seen twice sitting on a toilet with his pants down. 3/5
  • Language: God's name is misused at least seven or eight times, including in a subtitle; Jesus' name is also misused once.  Both a rhyming word and the homonym "dam" are used as euphemisms for the d-word. 2.5/5
  • Violence: Slapstick, and all played for laughs. 4/5
  • Drugs: Though no drugs are actually used, Fred acts like he is on drugs. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Fred is bullied and embarrassed online. 4/5
  • Other: Fred throws a temper tantrum, and deceives all of his classmates, both of which are never vilified. 2/5
Score: 0.5/5

20 November 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "Holiday Engagement"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up
Starring: Bonnie Somerville, Shelley Long, Jordan Bridges, and Haylie Duff
Released: 2011
Synopsis: Hillary Burns is happily engaged to Jason, and is eagerly awaiting their wedding...when he drops a bombshell on her: In order for them to wed, he must join her in a move to Pittsburgh, far away from all her family, because of a promotion he is receiving at work.  When Hillary becomes unsure about it, Jason dumps her.  As if that wasn't bad enough, it's almost Thanksgiving, and Hillary's family has been wanting to meet Jason for quite a while.  Not sure what to do, Hillary puts an ad online for a fake fiancĂ©, and discovers David, an out-of-work local actor.  Sure that he can play the part of Jason, they trek to Hillary's parents' house for Turkey Day.  One lie ends up covering another, but, they stop at nothing to make sure that no one discovers that "Jason" isn't really Jason at all.  When the real Jason arrives at Hillary's folks' house, all of the lies end up unraveling...but, is Hillary ready to take him back?
As seen on the Hallmark Channel.

My Review: Before I watched this movie, my mom was watching another Hallmark Channel movie on DVD, and a preview for this one came up.  When my mom saw it, she said it didn't look like a very nice movie; I could see what she was saying, but, I gave it a chance anyway...only to be rather disappointed in more than just the content.  Not only was the sexual dialogue deserving of a "PG-13"--which is not what you'd expect from the Hallmark Channel--but Hillary, the main protagonist, was far too neurotic to be likable.  She came off like Cathy of old-school comic strip fame, only without the humor.  Fans of Christmas movies can do much better than this; seriously, even though I only paid three bucks for it at Big Lots, I'd still say it was a waste of my money...and ninety minutes.  I just wonder: What was the Dove Foundation thinking when they approved this?

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A married couple mentions that they have sex three times a week, and that they spent a week naked after their last kid moved out.  Circumcision of babies is mentioned more than once.  A scene implies sex between two unmarried people.  An unmarried couple sleeps in the same room, albeit in different beds.  A woman mentions she is afraid to be thought of as a lesbian.  A priest makes a remark that is actually a sexual double entendre.  A woman strips down to her underwear and hands a random guy her clothes. 1/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; a guy in underwear; a woman in a bra; a woman in a strapless dress; some cleavage. 3/5
  • Language: Over ten misuses of God's name, and one usage of the p-word.  Also, some name-calling, i.e., "jerk". 2.5/5
  • Violence: None. 5/5
  • Drugs: Alcohol is consumed in several scenes.  A woman is seen with a cigarette. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: None that I can recall. 5/5
  • Other: The whole movie is about lying; also, the baptism of babies is mentioned. 2.5/5
Score: 1/5

19 November 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "The Book of Daniel"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Robert Miano, Andrew Bongiorno, and Leo Gallagher
Released: 2013
Synopsis: The Old Testament book comes to life in this Pure Flix Biblical drama! Daniel is praying to God for the rebuilding of the Temple, only to be threatened by the soldiers of King Cyrus.  When Cyrus finds out who Daniel is, they sit and eat a meal together, and Daniel tells stories of three different kings: Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful; Belshazzar, the foolish; and Darius, the one who was tricked.  More than merely stories from Daniel's imagination, they're accounts of how he served kings with the help of the one, true God.

My Review: Daniel is one of the most interesting books of the Bible; I'm not sure if I would have gone with the approach that the makers of this movie did, but, it works quite well.  The soundtrack is fitting and the actors do a great job.  I particularly liked the scene with the writing on the wall, which featured "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" in some awesome calligraphy.  However, the budget for this movie was obviously modest; the scene with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace looks like a cutscene from a Super Nintendo game.  Christian cinema fans will likely enjoy this; I'm not sure if others will.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A guy is referred to as a eunuch, and a woman is referred to as a harlot. 4/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: None. 5/5
  • Violence: A man is held at swordpoint; another man is fatally stabbed, though not graphically.  It is implied that three men are torn apart by lions. 3/5
  • Drugs: Wine is consumed several times, including by Daniel in one scene. 3.5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The writing on the wall; the lions' den; a king seizing a throne. 3/5
Score: 3.5/5

17 November 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "The Batman Superman Movie"

Rated: TV-PG (US) / PG (Canada)
Starring: Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Clancy Brown, and Mark Hamill
Released: 1997
Synopsis: Batman's main nemesis, the Joker, is in a funk; he recently lost pretty much everything he had thanks to the Caped Crusader.  To regain his fortune, the Joker, along with his gal pal Harley-Quinn, travel to Metropolis to meet Lex Luthor, making him an offer with a "jade" statue that is really made of Kryptonite...the one thing that can defeat Superman.  Batman and Superman join forces to defeat Lex and the Joker...but, will even their combined forces be enough? It's twice the heroes, twice the villains, and twice the action!
From Superman: The Animated Series.

My Review: Notice the last line of the synopsis? Instead of being an original production, like most of Warner Bros.' direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies, this is merely a two-parter from a previously released series.  Though those unfamiliar with Superman's cartoon adventures will find this new and interesting, most superhero fans will likely have already seen this.  If you're a casual DC Comics fan and need something to whet your appetite before the next big-screen adventure comes out, this would be a good rental; however, everyone else should stick with the DVDs of the entire TV series.  The good news is that this film isn't as hard-edged as some of the newer DC Comics Animated Universe movies.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: One kiss, and one reference to "making ha-ha". 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys, and women in short skirts, both made less sultry thanks to the animation style. 4/5
  • Language: Mostly name-calling, though there is one misuse of God's name. 4/5
  • Violence: People are shot at, thrown, hit, kicked, etc., throughout this movie.  A blast is said to have killed someone.  Robotic enemies are torn apart.  An explosion tears a hole in a big boat. All of it is bloodless. 2/5
  • Drugs: The Joker uses gas to make people laugh uncontrollably. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: A plane is hijacked in one scene; in another, an aircraft just misses hitting a big building.  Both scenes may be too reminiscent of 9/11 for some viewers. 3/5
Score: 2/5

16 November 2014

Quickie Movie Review: "S Club 7: Seeing Double"

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual material (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Tina Barrett, Paul Cattermole, Jon Lee, Bradley McIntosh, Jo O'Meara, Hannah Spearritt, and Rachel Stevens (aka S Club 7)
Released: 2003
Synopsis: Life is hard for mega-popular British pop group S Club 7.  Sure, their records are selling by the millions...but, between the live performances, the autograph sessions, the interviews, and the studio recording time, they just want a break! One day, they see themselves performing live in L.A....but, they're all the way in Barcelona! Not sure what's going on, they jet to Los Angeles to figure out who is impersonating them and why.  With plenty of danceable pop numbers, a bit of suspense, and a smattering of comedy, this movie is a must for S Club 7 fans!

My Review: When I was in middle school, my favorite music group was dc Talk.  I never saw them in concert--at least, as a full band--but, I loved pretty much everything they did, and I was rather excited when I found out they were making a movie.  The film they spoke of never came out in theaters; instead, an unfinished version was released on DVD in 2002 with a bonus remaster of one of their albums.  Imagine my disappointment when, instead of a regular movie, it was a documentary, with random concert footage, the band's day to day life, and no real plot.  I had expected it to have a story, not be a long music video.  S Club 7's movie is the kind I would have wanted dc Talk to have made.  Though the plot is strange, the musical numbers work very well.  It may have its nonsensical moments at times, but, it harkens back to a time when movies were merely meant as an escape from the real world, not gritty and realistic like way too many films are today.  Parents and other discerning viewers, be warned: This movie is "PG-13" for a reason, as you'll see in the content concerns mentioned below.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A guy touches a young woman inappropriately.  Girls walk up to a guy and ask for an autograph while he is relieving himself.  Fake breasts are mentioned twice; a vibrator once.  Guys and girls are seen in the shower together, but nothing explicit happens, other than a slight innuendo. They are, however, seen stripping, though nothing crucial is shown.  1.5/5
  • Nudity: The women of S Club 7 and other ladies in this movie seem to have a penchant for immodesty.  Many scenes feature them in low-cut and/or midriff baring outfits, and bikini tops are also seen.  The shower scenes show bare legs and shoulders, with the implication that they are naked.  2/5
  • Language: Mostly name-calling, though there is one usage of the d-word (not by a S Club 7 member). 4/5
  • Violence: A bit of slapstick. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The members of S Club 7 are nearly thrown into a pit ridden with snakes and spiders.  (Spoiler: They are rescued, and the creatures are never seen.)  Later on, a building full of people nearly blows up.  (Spoiler: The self-destruct mechanism is turned off just in time. 3/5
  • Other: The members of S Club end up becoming lazy and let their clones perform for them. 4/5
Score: 3.5/5

Quickie Movie Review: "Space Warriors"

Rated: PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Starring: Thomas Horn, Mira Sorvino, and Josh Lucas
Released: 2013
Synopsis: For pretty much his entire life, young Jimmy has dreamed of being an astronaut.  When his essay gives him a chance to attend NASA Space Camp, he is eager to go...but, neither of his divorced parents think it's a good idea.  He deceives them and goes anyway, only to meet some brilliant kids, from an amazing young female pilot to a genius hacker.  Though Jimmy's team, the Warriors, are talented, they have some pretty stiff competition.  Just when it seems that Jimmy's hope of space travel is gone, he and his team achieve a feat that astounds not only NASA, but the whole world.
From Brookwell McNamara Entertainment, makers of Even Stevens and That's So Raven.  Features CCM artists TobyMac and Britt Nicole on the soundtrack.

My Review: As a young child, I dreamed of going into space.  Of course, I didn't have a realistic portrait of what interstellar travel was really like; it isn't what you see in those kiddie shows, i.e., The Magic School Bus.  Still, this film brought back memories of those days, and would be great for anyone--young or old--who dreams of walking on Mars one day.  The content was rather clean; honestly, the only complaints I had were the rather erroneous closed captioning and that the climax wasn't as gripping as it could have been.  Those who are young--or young at heart--will enjoy this film.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A kiss on the cheek. 4.5/5
  • Nudity: Girls in tank tops. 4.5/5
  • Language: A bit of name-calling. 4/5
  • Violence: A fight, which is stopped before it gets serious; a cart-like vehicle crashes into another one. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some astronauts nearly die.  (Spoiler: They make it out unharmed.) One scene is emotionally intense. 4/5
  • Other: Jimmy and another Space Camp attendee lie to get into the program. 4/5
Score: 4/5

10 November 2014

Movie Review: "My Babysitter's a Vampire"

Rated: TV-PG
Starring: Vanessa Morgan, Matthew Knight, and Atticus Dean Mitchell
Released: 2011
Synopsis: Longtime best friends Ethan (Matthew Knight) and Benny (Atticus Dean Mitchell) are eagerly awaiting the first day of high school; they're ready to shed their geeky image and become cool.  When a mishap leads to Ethan's eight-year-old sister nearly being killed, his parents hire a babysitter.  On her first night at Ethan's house, Sarah (Vanessa Morgan, Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars) reveals that she herself is a fledgling vampire...and that many kids in town will likely become vampires as well unless Sarah, Ethan, and Benny stop them.  With the fate of the entire town--and the entire planet--at stake, the three kids have no choice but to put their lives on the line to stop the vampires' evil plans...but, will that be enough?
The genesis of a Disney Channel series.

The Good: I'm not usually one for stories such as this, but, I do have to complement the makers on a job well done.  The actors all did well, the plot was gripping, and the special effects were better than usual for a telefilm.  All of the heroes show resourcefulness in their fight against the vampires.  With a nice rock soundtrack, and some restraint in the areas of violence, this made for a good film.

The Bad: Other than the content concerns--see below--there wasn't too much to complain about here.  There were some times, however, that the closed captioner didn't seem to understand what was going on.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Flirting, and a guy is called a "perv". 4/5
  • Nudity: Part of a girl's back is seen. 4.5/5
  • Language: Usage of slang terms such as "butt" and "perv".  A song in the soundtrack misuses God's name. 3.5/5
  • Violence: Plenty of fantasy violence.  People are bitten by vampires, though that is mostly implied; all we see is the slightly bloody bite marks.  Vampires are impaled, electrocuted, and melted by holy water.  One character disintegrates. 2/5
  • Drugs: One brief generic reference. 4.5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Though this may be a Disney Channel production, it's likely too much for little kids.  The vampires are freaky, and the mood is very dark throughout.  You may want to screen this before showing it to your child. 1/5
  • Other: Parents and other adults are lied to and defied.  A woman is described as a sorceress of a sort, and she hands some kids a spell book.  Also, a Twilight-esque movie franchise is referenced, and an eight-year-old is seen watching it. 2/5
Conclusion: I'm a longtime fan of the Disney Channel, but, I was bit hesitant to get into this show because of its themes; vampires are just not my thing.  Still, this movie kept things rather cute and innocent, and the movie was rather enjoyable as a result.  I have the first season on iTunes as well; I'm now curious to check it out!

Score: 4/5