29 August 2015

TV DVD Review: "Batman: The Animated Series": Volume One

Rated: TV-PG (US) / PG (Canada)
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Mark Hamill
Released: 1992 (original TV premieres) / 2004 (DVD)
Synopsis: Bruce Wayne may be your average billionaire by day, but, by night, he is Batman, defender of Gotham City.  With villains such as the Joker, the Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy coming out of the woodwork, it's going to take everything Bruce has got to save innocent people from harm...but, will that be enough?

The Good: This series has been regarded as a classic by many superhero fans for quite a while, and with good reason; the production values and storylines are great.  Despite its age, the animation looked great on every device I watched it on, and the voice work was spot-on.  Batman may be strong, but he often uses more than just brute strength to save the day.  He is a likable hero, and the villains are appropriately despicable.

The Bad: As good as this is, I did have one problem: I'm not sure why Robin appears in only a select few episodes; as a fan of sidekicks, I would have liked to have seen more of him.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing and flirting. 4/5
  • Nudity: Batman is seen shirtless and in his underwear; various women are seen in low-cut outfits.  However, the animation style makes it less sultry. 3/5
  • Language: Name-calling, which isn't surprising; two misuses of God's name, which were. 3/5
  • Violence: As usual for this kind of series, action violence abounds.  Batman, Robin, and the various villains hit, kick, shoot, punch, throw, wrestle, etc., each other countless times.  Some attacks leave Batman with a nasty scratch on his suit. 1/5
  • Drugs: Gases and other substances that cause hallucinations are present in a few episodes; drinking is also seen. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: This may be a cartoon, but it definitely isn't as happy or sprightly as the 60's Adam West Batman.  Some of the villains could be rather frightening, and the mood is rather dark, with most scenes taking place at night.  Parents of young children should be wary. 1/5
Conclusion: A few years ago, I bought a DVD of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon at a garage sale, which served as my official introduction to the world of superhero cartoons.  Since then, I've watched everything from X-Men to Superman: The Animated Series to The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  Fans of series like Batman: The Animated Series know what to expect, and that's what they'll get here.  While not for young kids because of the violence and intensity, older fans will definitely enjoy this.

Score: 4.5/5

18 August 2015

Movie Review: "David and Bathsheba"

Rated: Not Rated (US) / PG (Canada)
Starring: Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward
Released: August 10, 1951
Synopsis: The classic Bible story comes to life in this epic film adaptation! As God's anointed King of Israel, David (screen legend Gregory Peck) has everything a guy could ask for...but, when he sees the lovely Bathsheba (Susan Hayward) bathing on the roof, he knows he must have her.  There's one big problem, though: She is married...to one of David's best soldiers! When David and Bathsheba have an affair, the king tries to cover up his mistake...but, it isn't long until it catches up with him! What will become of David, once known as "a man after God's own heart"?

The Good: They don't make Bible movies like this much anymore.  Despite its age, this movie feels appropriately epic most of the time, and features wonderful performances by everyone, especially the two leads.  Flashback scenes featuring Samuel anointing David and the infamous battle with Goliath were a nice touch.  Even if you consider yourself a more modern film fan, you should give this a try!

The Bad: As good as this is, I did have one slight complaint: The actor who played Goliath was a bit over-the-top, in an almost cartoonish way.  Also, some Bible readers may take issue with the liberties the film takes with the original text...but, doesn't every flick based on the Word do that to a degree?

Content Concerns: Like many movies, this film features sex and violence...but, those are a big part of the original Biblical account.  The adult themes are handled with old-school decorum, but, this movie isn't kid stuff.

Conclusion: David and Bathsheba is by far the oldest movie I've reviewed on this site; still, just like the Bible itself, it stands the test of time.  Even if you were bored to death by Charlton Heston's Moses, you might enjoy this one, though it helps to be familiar with the original story.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for entertainment, but, I liked it nonetheless.

Score: 4/5

10 August 2015

Movie Review: "Road to Redemption"

Rated: PG for thematic elements and mild violent content
Starring: Julie Condra, Pat Hingle, Leo Rossi, and Jay Underwood
Released: February 16, 2001
Synopsis: Amanda Tucker (Julie Condra) is in quite the jam.  One unfortunate circumstance after another leaves her and her boyfriend (Jay Underwood, Not Quite Human) penniless, their house wrecked...and themselves a quarter million dollars in debt! Not sure what else to do, Amanda takes a road trip to meet her opulent long lost grandfather (Pat Hingle), who she hasn't seen since she was a kid.  When they first meet, he agrees to give her the money...as long as they go fishing at the same spot they did years ago, which is hundreds of miles away! With Amanda's debtor--who is part of the mob!--hot on their tail, it's going to take everything they've got to emerge victorious!
Produced by Billy Graham's World Wide Pictures.

The Good: I've seen other films sponsored by Billy Graham, but, this is the first one that was a comedy, and, I have to admit it was pretty funny.  While it did have its serious moments--and what flick doesn't?--some parts made me laugh out loud.  The message is one that more and more people need to take to heart these days.  All of the actors did very well, provided both the required silliness and maturity, depending on the scene.  The production values are on par with a similarly themed secular release.

The Bad: The only complaint I have is that the ending was a bit too pat, though that was undone slightly by a scene after the credits start...so, wait before you push that "Stop" button!

Content Concerns: I've said before that I won't do my usual listing for Christian-themed entertainment, so, here's what I'll say: Slapstick violence is quite present here, and the lead actress seems to be meant as eye candy, as she is seen in form-fitting tops quite often, and her midriff is seen a time or two.  (Spoiler Warning!) Some viewers may have a problem with how she comes to Jesus; she says a prayer to welcome Jesus into her heart, and no baptism is seen. (End Spoilers!)

Conclusion: Me and this movie have an interesting history: I first heard of it when I was at a Baptist church--I myself am not a Baptist, though I am a Christian--for my cousin's wedding in 2001, right around the time of its release; there was a big poster advertising it on one of the church's walls.  I went back and forth about seeing it, and have had it on DVD for quite a while, but just got around to watching it this past week.  Much like Moms' Night Out, this is a madcap comedy adventure that also features a dose of morality.  Fans of recent Christian cinema such as God's Not Dead or Fireproof should definitely check this old-school flick out; be prepared to laugh...and smile!

Score: 4.5/5

07 August 2015

Movie Review: "Garage Sale Mystery"

Rated: TV-PG for violence
Starring: Lori Loughlin, Rick Ravanello, and Andrew Dunbar
Released: September 14, 2013
Synopsis: Jennifer Shannon (Lori Loughlin, Full House) has a knack for finding good buys at garage sales.  After attending one held by an old friend, she hears of a string of burglaries happening at homes that have held yard sales.  When Jennifer visits that friend, she finds her dead at the bottom of her stairs, and a priceless statue of hers gone.  At first, all signs point to an accident...but Jennifer's investigation shows evidence of foul play.  It's up to her and her detective friend to find the figurine...and the perpetrator.

The Good: The content of this film was rather clean; about the only objectionable thing was one misuse of God's name.  It's also great to see a movie that features garage sales; too many people ignore them, not realizing how much you can find at just one.  I liked the way the camera work showed how a "savvy shopper" spots a bargain.

The Bad: Three complaints, and rather big ones at that.  First off: While the movie appears to be based around garage sales, the actual murder could just as easily be in any episode of Monk or Murder, She Wrote; saying more than that could spoil the ending.  Second off: The plot thread of the detective dating Jennifer's daughter was unnecessary, and added nothing to the plot; did the writers just feel the need to add some romance? Lastly, a lack of closed captioning or English subtitles made some dialogue hard for me to understand, due to the ever-present congestion in my ears.  Deaf or hard-of hearing viewers will want to take note of that.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: One or two kisses; a husband and wife cuddling in bed. 4/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: One misuse of God's name. 4/5
  • Violence: A woman is murdered; another woman is shot at, but not killed; a guy falls through a roof and sustains serious injuries.  None of it is bloody or graphic, though. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Sequences: Along with the violence, seeing a woman lying there dead could be freaky for some viewers. 3/5
  • Other: Buddha is referenced throughout. 4/5
Conclusion: Do I like garage sales? Yes.  Did I like this movie? Not so much.  Though the theme is great, mystery fans can do much better than this.  While it has its moments, this is definitely not what I was expecting.

Score: 2/5

03 August 2015

Quickie DVD Review: "The Best of Mark Lowry and Bill Gaither: Volume One"

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Mark Lowry and Bill Gaither
Released: May 4, 2004
Synopsis: For years, Bill Gaither has played straight man to comedian/singer Mark Lowry's crazy, hyper antics.  Now, you can see some of their greatest hits alongside Bill and Mark's account of how the entire act came to be! Whether Mark is sporting a Ricky Williams hairdo, handing out zany Christmas presents to the Homecoming Friends, or belting out his much-loved song "Mary, Did You Know?", this collection features him and Bill Gaither at their best!

My Review: I like Mark Lowry's comedy; I identify with him because he has a psychological condition as I do, albeit a different one (ADHD in his case, mild autism in mine).  While this DVD features some of the best moments he and Bill Gaither had on the Homecoming videos, most fans of the series have likely seen all this already, and probably own the videos from which they came.  Though the interview clips are nice, those alone don't make it worth purchasing.  Unless you find this super cheap at a garage sale, I can only suggest borrowing this from the library, your church, or a friend.

Content Concerns: Some people may have a problem with Mark Lowry's comedy, but, if you've seen the Gaither Homecoming videos before, you know what to expect.

Score: 2.5/5