17 February 2015

Movie Review: "The Identical"

Rated: PG for thematic material and smoking
Starring: Blake Rayne, Ashley Judd, and Seth Green
Released: September 5, 2014 (theaters) / January 13, 2015 (DVD)
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, the Hemsleys welcome twin boys...only to realize that, since money is tight, they can only support one.  They decide to let a preacher (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd) adopt Ryan, while Drexel remains with his parents.  As the years go by, the twins (both played by Blake Rayne) are living very different lives.  Drexel is raking in the millions as a performer, while Ryan struggles to find his calling, especially since his minister father wants him to follow in his footsteps.  Ryan eventually gets a gig as a Drexel impersonator known as "The Identical," but has no idea of their true connection.  Will they find each other before it's too late?

The Good: For a Christian movie, the production values are great.  It helps that this film has some mainstream talent; not only is Ashley Judd one of the main actresses, but the end credits even mentioned that veteran voice actress Tara Strong (Ben 10) had a cameo.  The performances were great, and even the closing credits started off with a wonderful song.  Even the sets did an amazing job of taking you back in time.  Unfortunately...

The Bad: All that is ruined by the poor story.  Maybe I'm being too critical, but, for me to enjoy a film, it has to have a great narrative, even if it's a tried-and-true formula.  This movie just goes on for too long, and doesn't really reach a pleasing conclusion.  By the time it was over, I didn't really care about the characters that much; in fact, I struggled to finish it.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing. 4/5
  • Nudity: Occasional bare midriffs and cleavage. 4/5
  • Language: One h-word, and one misuse of God's name. 4/5
  • Violence: A young man is knocked down by a police officer.  Someone dies as a result of a plane crash (not shown). 4/5
  • Drugs: Alcohol is consumed fairly often; smoking is also present, though less so. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity abounds.  An elderly man is shown having a heart attack. (Spoiler: He recovers.) 2/5
Conclusion: What a disappointment! I was rather excited to purchase this using my K-Mart reward points, but it turned out to be a serious dud! Elvis fanatics may feel differently, but, I really did not enjoy this one.  It's a shame, because, with such great talent and wonderful production values, this could have been a much better movie.

Score: 2/5

TV DVD Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1987): Volume Two

Rated: "For Ages 5 And Up" (manufacturer's advisory)
Starring: Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, and Renae Jacobs
Released: October - December 1988 (TV premieres) / April 26, 2005 (DVD)
Synopsis: The heroes in a half-shell are back in action in this second season of their old-school Saturday morning cartoon! The evil Shredder will stop at nothing to wreak havoc in New York City, and it's up to Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, along with their allies--rodent sensei Splinter and local TV reporter April O'Neill--to stop him! In this DVD set, Shredder discovers powerful alien technology, Splinter becomes human again, and April's DNA gets transmutated with a cat's! Will the Turtles finally be able to stop Shredder once and for all?

The Good: A DVD set of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was what woke me up to superhero cartoons in general, so, of course, I would enjoy something like this.  I enjoyed the comedy and the action; in fact, the finale kept me on the edge of my seat.  The voice work is very well-done, as was the closed captioning.  The animation had some great moments, but...

The Bad: It could have been a bit better; I even noticed some discoloration in the last episode.  Also, the video quality suffers a bit because the makers put thirteen episodes on one disc.  Still, those are about the only complaints I have.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Innocent romance (i.e., flirting).  One of the Turtles dresses up as a woman in order to thwart an enemy. 4/5
  • Nudity: Cleavage; a guy in nothing but underwear. 4/5
  • Language: No actual profanity, though there was name-calling (e.g., "moron" or "fool") and occasional usage of euphemisms ("gosh," "let's haul shell!") 4/5
  • Violence: Action violence abounds in every episode.  The Turtles, the bad guys, and others hit, kick, punch, throw, etc. each other quite frequently.  Most of the fights are non-fatal, though the finale ends with the presumed death of at least one character.  There are also some comedic pratfalls. 2/5
  • Drugs: Substances cause transformations. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some of the enemies can be a bit scary.  The events of the finale put Splinter's life in danger.  (Spoiler: He makes it out just in time.) 4/5
  • Other: A bit of gross-out humor (for example, burping). 4/5
Conclusion: Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this second volume of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.  After the events of the finale, I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.  It may not be perfect, but, it harkens back to a time when entertainment was about more than just lush visuals.  If you were disappointed with last year's TMNT movie, check this out to see the Turtles as they were intended to be.

Score: 4/5

15 February 2015

TV Episode Set Review: "My Babysitter's a Vampire": Season One

Rated: TV-PG for violence
Starring: Vanessa Morgan, Matthew Knight, and Atticus Mitchell
Released: June - July 2011 (TV premieres)
Synopsis: After the events of the prequel telefilm, Sarah (Vanessa Morgan, Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars) is now a fledgling vampire.  Benny (Atticus Mitchell) and Ethan (Matthew Knight) are still geeks...but, the three of them, along with the entire town of Whitechapel, find themselves in one supernatural predicament after another.  From a spell that inadvertently brings legions back to life, to a zombie plague that takes over all of the teachers at their high school, to a life-sized, talking version of Ethan's little sister's doll, these kids are in for the ride of their lives.
As seen on Disney Channel.

The Good: Though this wasn't actually made by Disney Channel, it has most of the makings of their live-action productions, which is a good thing.  Ethan, Benny, and Sarah show amazing resourcefulness and problem-solving skills in pretty much every episode.  There are also some very cute and funny moments, and a lack of profanity and explicit sexual content is good.  Even the violence is non-graphic...

The Bad: ...but it does get rather intense at times.  Even when it isn't violent, the mood is mostly dark and scary.  It's almost like the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo films that were released around Y2K; instead of being someone in a suit, these ghouls and goblins are real.  Some of the themes border on occultic, especially the episode where a board game causes Sarah to be possessed.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing and flirting. 4/5
  • Nudity: Cleavage; girls/women in short shorts and off-the-shoulder tops. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling. 4/5
  • Violence: As mentioned above, the violence can be pretty intense at times.  Punches and kicks are thrown; people are bitten by vampires; vampires and other creatures are disintegrated by holy water, being impaled with stakes, etc.; blood is often seen, but not in a violent way. 2/5
  • Drugs: A substance transforms people into zombies. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Also as mentioned above, the mood of this series is largely dark and scary, and many moments can be rather frightening.  This definitely isn't for younger kids. 2/5
  • Other: A bit of bathroom/gross-out humor (i.e., a ghost vomiting green goo on two kids). 4/5

Conclusion: I don't normally do vampire stories, but, as this was shown on the Disney Channel, I felt I had to give it a shot.  It was better than I expected...but, I don't think I'll be bothering with the second season.  Fans of series such as Twilight may enjoy it; I did, to a degree...but, one season was enough for me.

Score: 3.5/5

06 February 2015

Quickie Movie Review: "A Walk in My Shoes"

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Nancy Travis, Yara Martinez, and Cameron Deane Stewart
Released: December 3, 2010 (NBC premiere)
Synopsis: Life has been tough for Justin Kremer (Cameron Deane Stewart) and his family.  Between his father getting killed in Iraq, his mother's financial woes, and the normal stresses of high school, times have been tough.  In order to play on his school's basketball team, Justin has to have a decent GPA...but, he hasn't turned in his English paper yet, and his teacher, Mrs. Fahey (Nancy Travis) isn't taking any excuses.  After a slight fender-bender, Mrs. Fahey meets Molly (Yara Martinez), an angel who gives her a mysterious challenge.  Next thing Mrs. Fahey knows, she finds herself in the place Justin's mom, and discovers all of the struggles he and his family are going through.  Will they make it through this difficult time?
Part of the Family Movie Night venture from Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble.

My Review: We've seen the body switch/place switch thing done on film countless times; Disney has made three different Freaky Friday movies alone, plus ones that are along similar lines, such as Wish Upon a Star, where two sisters switch bodies.  A Walk in My Shoes doesn't break any ground on that front, and really isn't anything special, but it makes for some decent entertainment nonetheless.  If you're a fan of family movies, this is right up your alley.

Content Concerns:

Sex: Kissing. 4/5
Nudity: Cleavage. 4/5
Language: None. 5/5
Violence: A non-fatal car accident; a bit of mild fighting. 4/5
Drugs: None. 5/5
Frightening/Intense Scenes: A scene intended to evoke the atmosphere of Middle East warfare; some emotional intensity. 3/5
Other: A somewhat irreverent portrayal of an angel. 4/5

Score: 3.5/5