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!)

16 May 2016

Quickie DVD Review: "3-2-1 Penguins!: Save the Planets!"

Synopsis: Intergalactic Arctic birds Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel and Kevin, along with their young human friends Jason and Michelle, journey from one planet to another to intervene in situations...all the while learning very important lessons.  Zaniness and adventure abound in these three episodes!
From Big Idea, creators of VeggieTales.

My Review: Instead of just one episode like in the previous DVD of this series I watched, this one has three, and they're all very good! The animation and voice work is spectacular, and the moral lessons are ones many kids and even adults need to hear.  As a sucker for family-friendly entertainment, I found that I really enjoyed this one; if you're a kid at heart like I am, you probably will, too! Though the DVD was mostly well-made, some annoyingly lagging closed captions in the first episode may bother deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.  That, however, is a minor complaint.

Content Concerns: You probably expect squeaky clean content from Big Idea, and that's mostly what you get here...except for one thing: The villain in the last episode is surprisingly scary-looking.

Score: 4/5

11 May 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "Lego Ninjago Rebooted: Battle for New Ninjago City": Season Three, Part One

Synopsis: It's been a while since Sensei Wu and his ninja trainees defeated the Overlord and brought peace to Ninjago City.  After years of hiding out at their school, Cole, Kai, Zane, and Jay venture back to what is now New Ninjago City...only to discover that the Overlord has returned...in digital form!  Tech genius Cyrus Borg gives the ninja the Techno Blades, the only weapons that can defeat the Overlord...but the Overlord's allies will stop at nothing to defeat them! Meanwhile, Zane, the only robot among the four ninja, finds love in Pixal, a female robot working for Cyrus...but, with everything going on, will they have time for love?
As seen on Cartoon Network.

My Review: I've loved this series ever since I randomly discovered it at the library where I work.  The first two seasons had likable heroes, despicable villains, humorous dialogue, great voice work, and wonderful animation...not to mention the amazing action sequences! These four episodes from the third season continue in that trend; the water animation in some scenes is especially well done.  However, I would have liked the entire season, not just the first four episodes; this ends on a cliffhanger, and it'll probably be a while before I see the remaining episodes, if I ever do.  The third season reportedly only has eight episodes; would it have killed them to make this a double-disc set?

Content Concerns: This show was likely rated "TV-Y7" for fantasy violence, and it is very present throughout these four episodes.  Also, some of the villains are scary, and there is quite a bit of insulting and name-calling, albeit of the "G" variety.  Probably the most shocking moment is when a longtime absent character reappears, and is revealed to have a child; he says he and his wife have "been busy, and plan on staying that way." Was that a sexual remark, or am I interpreting that wrong?

Score: 4/5

07 May 2016

Quickie TV DVD Review: "The Law of Ueki: Volume One: The Battle Commencement"

Synopsis: Ueki seems like your everyday junior high kid...but, he has a special power: to turn trash into trees! His teacher, Mr. Kobayashi, gave him that power to enter into a competition; if Ueki wins, he'll get any talent he wants, while Mr. K will become the new Celestial King.  Unfortunately, there are ninety-nine other competitors vying for the same title, all with special powers of their own! Ueki isn't much of a fighter, but, he decides to face the challenge head-on! Can he emerge victorious despite the deck being stacked against him?

My Review: Other than Japanese cartoon adaptations of Marvel superheroes, this is the first anime series I've watched since Yu-Gi-Oh! in high school.  However, I have to say that I really enjoyed it! The plot may seem weird, but, it's actually very fun and exciting! As for the production values, the animation is great, and the English voice actors do a wonderful job.  I wish the final episode didn't end on a cliffhanger, though; it'll likely be a while before I can get my hands on the rest of the series.  As good as it is, though, one big flaw with the DVD itself: The subtitles during the opening and closing credits during the second and last episodes merely transliterate the Japanese lyrics being sung instead of actually translating them.  As someone who knows about zero Japanese, I wished they could have done like they did on the other episodes.  That, however, is a minor complaint.

Content Concerns: The back of the DVD warns of "cartoon violence," but, this is a far cry from Looney Tunes.  While not bloody or gory, the battles are intense, and some of the brawls are of the street variety.  Also, the subtitles feature about three or four uses each of the d-word and the b-word--that is, the one used for an illegitimate child--though such language is strangely absent from the dubbing.

Score: 4/5

04 May 2016

Quickie DVD Review: "3-2-1 Penguins!: Meet the Penguins!"

Synopsis: When he sees his twin sister Michelle sing a silly song after being scared of a television show, Jason finds it hilarious and decides to tell his intergalactic penguin friends...who respond by sharing their own secrets! Jason soon finds himself in front of a captive audience, and decides to share all his friends' secrets to get laughs! His friends are hurt, but Jason doesn't get why.  Will he learn the error of his ways?

My Review: I'm a longtime fan of Big Idea, and the animation in this was fabulous.  Like VeggieTales, this episode imparts a moral lesson that even many adults these days need to hear.  However, the DVD itself is a ripoff, as the main feature is merely half an hour.  You should probably check this out from the library instead of spending money on it.  Also, the back of the case says this is closed captioned, but, when I watched it, none came up.

Content Concerns: Nothing of note.  (What else would you expect from Big Idea?)

Score: 2.5/5

30 April 2016

Quickie Short Film Review: "Pikachu's Vacation"

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Ikue Ohtano, Rachael Lillis, and Rodger Parsons
Released: 1999
Synopsis: We all know that Pokémon trainers pit their "pocket monsters" in battles against each other...but, what do the creatures do for fun? When Ash, Misty, and Brock's Pokémon take a vacation, anything can happen! When one of their own is in danger, the pocket monsters learn that only by banding together and putting aside their differences can they achieve the seemingly impossible.

My Review: I used to play and watch Pokémon frequently back in the day, but, until watching this short film tonight, I hadn't touched the franchise in years.  This served as a nice reminder of when life was simpler, especially when I remembered that it was released two years prior to 9/11.  The events of the film were fun, and some moments made me laugh; however, there were little interludes that added nothing to the story and seemingly served no purpose. (Were they just there to further annoy the non-fans in the audience?) By now, everyone who would want to see this probably has; if you're new to the franchise, you should check this out.

Content Concerns: Nothing of note; mild peril, at worst.

Score: 3.5/5

Movie Review: "The Black Rider: Revelation Road"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: David A.R. White, James Denton, and Hilty Bowen
Released: 2014
Synopsis: In a post-Rapture world, Joshua (David A.R. White, God's Not Dead 2) is on a very important mission: to find medical help for a very sick girl.  He finds a small town of people left behind, where he meets a tyrannical mayor (James Denton, Good Witch) and Sofia (Hilty Bowen), a young woman who is determined to help out Joshua.  The mayor tells Josh and Sofia that her mother, a trained doctor, left the city to follow a mysterious man known as the Shepherd.  Sofia and Joshua set off to find him...but, nothing can prepare them for what awaits them during the end times.
Also starring Kevin Sorbo (God's Not Dead) and Bruce Marchiano (The Visual Bible: Matthew).

The Good: Forget the Left Behind franchise; this is how the "end times" should be portrayed! While I don't necessarily believe in Rapture theology, it's hard not to be drawn in by this dramatic interpretation of the prophecies of Revelation! David A.R. White is amazing as the lead, and James Denton is among the coldest and most calculating villains I've seen in a while; much different from the gentle physician he portrays on Hallmark Channel's Good Witch.  The other actors do well, too, and the fight and action sequences are incredible! Even the plot is convoluted; you'd have to watch the earlier movies to understand this, but, trust me: it's worth it!

The Bad: Along with the problems that Rapture theology presents, this third film in a series ends on a cliffhanger; however, I've heard nothing about a fourth film.  I sure hope they don't leave this franchise unfinished!

Content Concerns: I won't do my usual listing, but, I will say that, like many of its kind, this flick has quite a bit of violence; people get shot dead and otherwise killed quite frequently, and the fights are intense.  There's no gore, but there is a bit of blood.  Plus, young children won't understand the themes anyway.

Conclusion: What a rush! This movie gripped me and wouldn't let go! If you've watched the first two films in this series, you can't miss this one!

Score: 4.5/5

27 April 2016

Movie Review: "God's Not Dead 2"

Rated: PG for some thematic elements
Starring: Melissa Joan Hart, David A.R. White, and Ernie Hudson
Released: April 1, 2016
Synopsis: Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) is different from the other teachers at her high school; her Christian faith makes her more optimistic than her peers.  During one of Grace's history classes, a student (Hayley Orrantia) who has been studying the Bible compares the words of Gandhi and Martin Luther King to those of Jesus; Grace responds by quoting Scripture, which gets her in big trouble with the school board.  Taken to court, her accusers are bent on proving that God is dead.  When things take a turn for the worse, will Grace prevail?
Also starring Ernie Hudson (The Word of Promise), Maria Canals-Barrera (Wizards of Waverly Place), David A.R. White (Revelation Road), and Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty).  Features appearances by Mike Huckabee, the Newsboys, author Lee Strobel, and the late Fred Thompson as themselves.

The Good: When this sequel was announced, fans of the first film likely wondered: Could it measure up to the original? The answer is--in my opinion, anyway--a resounding yes! Amazing performances from everyone in the cast, especially former teen star Melissa Joan Hart as the lead; a wonderful soundtrack, featuring Audio Adrenaline's "Sound of the Saints"; great sets; an involving plot; an all-too-true message...seriously, what's not to like? With the state of our country and our planet, this is one message that we all need to hear...and this film definitely delivers it!

The Bad: Two minor downsides: One, though the plot was involving, there was a pokey moment or two.  Two, the fashion sense of the female characters was a bit immodest, especially for a Christian film; when one of them first appeared, a friend I was watching the film with said, "Can her skirt get any shorter?" Those, however, were not a big deal.

Content Concerns: I won't do my usual listing, but I will say that, alongside the wardrobe issues--see above--emotional intensity is present throughout, and some people may take offense to a anti-Christian protester using a classic rock reference on his sign.

Score: 4.5/5

17 April 2016

iTunes Episode Set Review: "Lego Star Wars: The Complete Brick Saga So Far"

Rated: TV-PG-V / TV-Y7-FV
Starring: Anthony Daniels, Tom Kane, and Brian Dobson
Released: 2014
Synopsis: It's the beloved science fiction film saga as you've never seen it before! Star Wars gets the Lego treatment, featuring new characters such as former Clone Trooper JEK alongside longtime cinematic favorites such as Yoda and Darth Vader! With plenty of hilarity, this comedic adaptation of one of the most successful celluloid series ever features the usual ship battles and lightsaber duels...but all in the name of laughs!
Features the voice of Anthony Daniels, the original C3PO.

The Good: This is really a parody of Star Wars...but it's a great one! Fans of the movies will likely be laughing out loud at the many humorous moments; I know I was! The animation and voice work were also great as well.  I wasn't quite expecting this series to be a comedy when I bought it...but I'm glad I did; it was a treat!

The Bad: The only complaint I really have is that the last episode is pretty much the same as the one that came before it, save for an alternate ending.  That, however, is a minor complaint.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Totally innocent romance; girls chase Luke, which is played for laughs. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys, made much less sultry thanks to the characters being Lego people. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling, at worst. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic pratfalls; nothing worse. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Much of this series is just silly, but, a creature or two could frighten little kids. 4/5
  • Other: Occasional bathroom humor. 4/5
Conclusion: Back when I was a kid, I was a big fan of Growing Pains, thanks to reruns being shown daily on the Disney Channel.  To this day, my number one favorite episode--not of that show, but of any show, ever--was "Meet the Seavers," where youngest son Ben has a dream about his family being merely a television show, and the cast members use their real names and talk about their real-life families.  It's stuck with me ever since, and such self-parody has always been hilarious to me.  I mention that because, what "Meet the Seavers" was to that Kirk Cameron sitcom, Lego Star Wars is to Lucas' space opera.  Purists may be enraged at the films getting the comedic treatment, but, I really enjoyed this one.

Score: 4.5/5

13 April 2016

Quickie Movie Review: "Supergirl"

Rated: PG for unspecified reasons (original version)
Starring: Helen Slater, Faye Dunaway, and Peter O'Toole
Released: 1984
Synopsis: When the object that gives her underwater city power accidentally ends up on Earth, it's up to Kara Zor-El, cousin of Kal-El aka Superman, to get it back and rescue her people.  Unfortunately, an evil witch bent on world domination is using it to enact her dastardly plans.  Posing as a student in an all-girls' school, Kara also has the same powers her cousin has...but, will that be enough to defeat the sorceress?

My Review: I'm doing a quickie review because this movie has a certain notoriety as being one of the worst superhero films ever...and it deserves it.  The plot would only work in a video game, and the special effects are rather cheesy.  The only good news is that this flick is low on profanity and sexual content, which is surprising for an unrated cut of a theatrically released film.  Despite the clean content, however, I wouldn't bother watching this unless you're a die-hard superhero fanatic; even then, you might not like it.  If you want to see Supergirl in action, go buy some episodes of the current CBS show from iTunes or Amazon; they're much better than this mess.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing and flirting; Supergirl puts a bra on over her shirt and starts stuffing it. 4/5
  • Nudity: Cleavage; shirtless guys; girls are seen in a shower, but only bare shoulders are shown. 4/5
  • Language: One usage of the s-word; two or three of the d-word and h-word, and about as many misuses of God's name. 3/5
  • Violence: Cheesy action sequences involving Supergirl: she saves a guy from construction equipment gone haywire, she fights against a monster from the depths, etc.  Nothing graphic, but one scene is a bit bloody. 3/5
  • Drugs: Drinking and smoking are shown. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Young children may be scared of the monster towards the end; however, older viewers will likely laugh at the scene's cheesiness. 4/5
  • Other: Magic and spells are used by the villainess. 4/5
Score: 1/5

08 April 2016

Movie Review: "Brave"

Rated: PG for some scary action and rude humor
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson
Released: 2012
Synopsis: Merida is not your typical princess.  She can shoot arrows with the best of them, and she detests the custom that requires her to marry a prince.  She and her mother are constantly butting heads, and it drives Merida insane.  After the two get into an altercation, Merida finds a witch who gives her a spell to change her mother.  When it takes effect, Merida's mother is definitely changed...into a bear.  Desperate to undo the spell and bring her mother back, Merida seeks out the witch that sold her the spell...but she is nowhere to be found.  Will Merida be able to undo the spell, or will her mother remain a wild grizzly?

The Good: The animation in this movie is excellent; then again, this is a Pixar flick.  Merida is a likable, yet flawed, character, and definitely a strong heroine.  The film alternates between humor and touching scenes, but they're all well done.  I enjoyed the voice work, too.

The Bad: Though this was a fun movie, it isn't the kind of epic we've come to expect from Pixar.  It seems to borrow too much from previous Disney movies, ranging from their various princess flicks to the most recent version of Freaky Friday.  Now that great computer animation is rather commonplace--seriously, you can find it in television cartoons these days--you need more than that to sell a movie.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A man moons other men; nothing is seen.  A boy grabs an item from inside a woman's cleavage. A woman is embarrassed to be wrapped in only a tapestry with guys around. 3/5
  • Nudity: Cleavage; shirtless guys; bare buttocks without any critical areas; a woman wrapped in a tapestry. 3/5
  • Language: Name-calling; nothing more. 4/5
  • Violence: A bit of comedic violence, alongside some that's more serious; two bears fighting is probably the worst of it. 3/5
  • Drugs: Implied drinking. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The bears fighting; emotional intensity. 3/5
  • Other: Fairy-tale-style magic is used; some crude humor, i.e., burping. 3/5
Conclusion: At one point in my life, I had seen every single movie Pixar had made...but, that was back in 2007, when Cars was their latest film; Brave is the first one I've seen since Toy Story 3.  I've been meaning to get around to seeing others, especially Monsters University, but I just haven't.  I had heard that this wasn't quite as epic as their other films...and, in this case, what I heard was right.  Still, fans of princess movies or Disney flicks in general likely won't be disappointed.

Score: 3.5/5

Movie Review: "The Bible Stories: Solomon"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Ben Cross, Vivica A. Fox, and Max Von Sydow
Released: 1997
Synopsis: Solomon, the son of David--the "man after God's own heart"--is poised to become the king of Israel, and has been assigned the task of building the Lord's temple; a very arduous task indeed.  Once Solomon takes the throne, he immediately begins construction on it...but, soon after, his heart is won over by foreign women who worship other deities, for which Solomon builds temples, something God told him not to do.  With the nation in peril, will Solomon realize his mistake before it's too late?
Based on the Biblical accounts.

The Good: This movie definitely brought the Bible to life in a very vivid way.  The sets, the acting, the scenery, the attention to detail, and pretty much everything else were incredible.  While Solomon was a wise man--and, this film features him quoting Ecclesiastes and Proverbs--he also had some serious character flaws, as this film shows very well.  Fans of flicks based on the Bible likely won't be disappointed, except...

The Bad: This movie does take some liberties with the original text, especially when--spoiler alert!--Solomon marries the queen of Sheba and proceeds to get her pregnant.  That's not in the Bible, and some people may quibble with that; then again, Solomon had way too many women anyway, so, why not her as well? Also, the violence and sexual content, though true to the story, make this inappropriate for children; then again, if you've read the Bible, you know that already.

Content Concerns: I'm not going to do my usual listing because of the source material; see the above section for details on the content.

Score: 4/5

03 April 2016

Movie Review: "That Darn Cat!" (1965)

Rated: G for general audiences
Starring: Hayley Mills, Dean Jones, and Dorothy Provine
Released: 1965
Synopsis: A neighborhood feline known only as That Darn Cat, or D.C. for short, turns up at Patti's (Hayley Mills) house with a wristwatch around its neck.  Upon investigating the timepiece, she finds what appears to be a cry for help etched on the back.  After finding out about the disappearance of a local bank teller, Patti enlists the help of FBI agent Zeke Kelso (screen legend Dean Jones) to find the culprit before it's too late.  However, D.C. is known as That Darn Cat for a reason: he is constantly getting into mischief.  Will Patti and Zeke ever be able to find the missing bank teller before it's too late?

The Good: I'm a longtime fan of Disney's live-action productions, and this old-school film of theirs is a treat.  With hilarity, action, and plenty of cute moments, it's easy to see why this movie has stood the test of time.  The heroes are flawed yet easy to root for, and the villains are utterly despicable.  Fans of the House of Mouse who haven't seen this yet should definitely seek it out.

The Bad: As cute and innocent as this was, I was a bit turned off by the incessant smoking.  Also, despite the "G" rating, the action and themes may be a bit much for the youngest viewers.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A nosy neighbor worries about an affair that never happens. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guy seen from a distance. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling, at worst. 4/5
  • Violence: Plenty of slapstick, as well as some gun violence; people are shot at, but nobody is hurt. 4/5
  • Drugs: Smoking in a few scenes. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The movie centers around an innocent woman being kidnapped.  (Spoiler: She escapes unhurt.) 4/5
  • Other: Patti, Zeke, and others tell lies to cover up their operation. 4/5
Conclusion: I got burned out on Disney or Disney-style animation as a kid; it was a product of seeing films such as Beauty and the Beast or We're Back!: A Dinosaur's Story umpteen times on home video.  Even in my later elementary school years, my favorite films from the House of Mouse were ones like My Favorite Martian, Flubber, or George of the Jungle; live-action ones, not cartoons.  So, I had high hopes for this movie, and it pretty much delivered.  Now, I need to check out some other old-school Disney live-action films.

Score: 4/5

18 March 2016

TV DVD Review: "X-Men": Volume Three

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence (US) / PG: "Not Recommended for Young Children, Violence" (Canada)
Starring: Cathal J. Dodd, George Buza, and Norm Spencer
Released: 1994 - 1995 (original TV premieres) / 2009 (DVD)
Synopsis: In this third volume of the adventures of Professor Xavier's school of mutants, the X-Men face their toughest challenges yet! Between a jungle god bent on causing an apocalypse, the return of the Juggernaut, Wolverine discovering his origins, a temporal disturbance causing Professor X to cease to exist, and especially Jean Grey being possessed by an evil space-faring entity, it's going to take everything the X-Men have got to save the day and emerge victorious!
Based on stories from Marvel Comics.  Also features appearances by Nightcrawler and Morph.

The Good: I love superhero cartoons, and these are among the best I've seen.  With plenty of action, convoluted storylines, great voice work, and wonderful animation, this series definitely delivers.  It's no surprise that this cartoon continues to be remembered by those who watched it back in the day; it's fabulous! Also impressive, though unexpected, was a portrayal of Christian faith in a positive light.  When devout Catholic mutant Nightcrawler is introduced, the episode featuring him ends with Wolverine reading from the Bible.  You wouldn't expect that from a secular '90's cartoon, but it's there...and it made me quite happy!

The Bad: As good as this is, I do have to say that this isn't for children.  While it has no notable sexual content and zero profanity, the violence is akin to the theatrical films, which were rated "PG-13" for a reason.  There wasn't any blood or gore, but the action sequences were rather intense, and some kids may be scared by some of the villains.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; women in low-cut outfits; a girl in a tribal outfit; all of it is made less sultry thanks to the cartoon style. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling; nothing more. 4/5
  • Violence: As the rating mentions, "fantasy violence" is present throughout, and it gets rather intense. No blood or gore, though. 2/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity and scary villains throughout. 3/5
  • Other: Remarks about evolution; Professor X makes a disparaging remark about the creation account in Genesis. 4/5
Conclusion: While not exactly for kids, as an adult viewer, I found this third volume to be fabulous.  It's great to see the X-Men come to life without the profanity and sexual content that besmirched the theatrical films.  If you're a comic book fan, and haven't seen this series yet...you should! Just be sure to start with the first volume.

Score: 4.5/5

16 March 2016

TV Episode Set Review: "Shake It Up": Volume One

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Bella Thorne, Zendaya, and Davis Cleveland
Released: 2010 - 2011 (original Disney Channel premieres)
Synopsis: Teenage BFFs Raquel "Rocky" Blue (Zendaya, Zapped) and Cecilia "CeCe" Jones (Bella Thorne) have finally fulfilled a lifelong dream: they've become dancers on Shake It Up, Chicago!, the hottest dance show around! However, being stars comes with a price, and they still have to face the normal problems that come with being a teenager.  In this inaugural volume, Rocky and CeCe enter a talent show in an attempt to one-up Rocky's longtime rival, discover that their friend Deuce (Adam Irigoyen) is in love with an adolescent gold digger, and attend an adults only party only to be busted by a cop (Anita Barone) who happens to be CeCe's mom!
As seen on the Disney Channel.

The Good: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Nobody makes a sitcom like the Disney Channel these days.  The ones on the Mouse network are the closest modern equivalent to the old-school ones (Mork & Mindy, Home Improvement, Growing Pains, etc.) with which I grew up.  This first volume is insanely fun, with many cute moments, fabulous performances, wonderful dance numbers, and, best of all, pretty much squeaky clean content.  It's also fun to see the early days of Rocky and CeCe; since I wasn't "hip" to the show until late in its run, most of these episodes were new to me...but, I enjoyed every minute of them.

The Bad: As good as this is, there was a bit of "PG"-level crudity here and there, which wasn't necessary, especially considering how good the rest of the show was.  That, however, is a minor complaint.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Discussion of an incident where a girl loses her top; a chest bump between two girls that goes wrong. 4/5
  • Nudity: Occasional low-cut or off-the-shoulder outfits. 4/5
  • Language: Nothing worse than name-calling. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic pratfalls; nothing more. 4/5
  • Drugs: An adult party, which implies alcohol consumption. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: None that I recall. 5/5
  • Other: Some crude humor is present. 4/5
Conclusion: If you know me, you know I've been a big Disney Channel fan for well over a decade.  Say what you will about the network, but, they keep delivering the kind of programming I enjoy; as long as they do, I'll keep watching.  If you're not a fan of the Mouse channel's shows, I'm not sure why you're even reading this; those who are fans know what to expect...and that's just what they'll get, which isn't a bad thing.

Score: 4.5/5

04 March 2016

iTunes Season Review: "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers": Season Three

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence
Starring: Amy Jo Johnson, David Yost, Karan Ashley, Jason David Frank, Steve Cardenas, and Catherine Sutherland
Released: 1995 - 1996 (original TV premieres)
Synopsis: This third season brings the Rangers' biggest challenges yet! With Rita and Zedd still stopping at nothing to overtake the Earth, it'll take everything they've got to keep our planet safe! Even with a new member joining their group, and allies from the deepest regions of outer space, it may be too much for Zordon and the Rangers to handle.

(Warning: Potential spoilers below!)

The Good: What a rush! I've been watching an episode of this pretty much every day over the past few weeks, and, I have to say, it kept my interest, despite the obvious low budget.  I especially liked the new character of Kat, an Australian girl who replaces Kimberly as the Pink Ranger.  There's plenty of fun to be had in this third season, but...

The Bad: Those expecting everything to come to a neat ending will likely be disappointed.  The season finale ends with the Command Center blowing up, not with a big defeat of Rita and Zedd.  If you followed the series to its end back in the day, you probably won't be surprised, but I was.  Now, I'll have to watch the next season to see how things end up.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; girls/women in swimsuits, including two-pieces. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling throughout, and quite often at that. 3/5
  • Violence: As you'd expect, there is fantasy action violence throughout.  The Rangers, villains, and other characters kick, punch, shoot at, etc., each other countless times.  Slapstick humor is also present in many episodes. 2/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some of the monsters could be scary for some kids, and the finale is a bit intense. 4/5
  • Other: Some of the powers used smack of sorcery. 4/5
Conclusion: I may be nearly thirty years old, but, the kid in me still enjoys shows like this.  After watching the first three seasons in their entirety, I'm curious to see where the franchise goes from here, especially given the cliffhanger ending of this season.  One thing I wonder is: When do the special effects improve? I'll just have to wait and see.

Score: 4/5

15 February 2016

TV DVD Review: "Boy Meets World": The Complete Second Season

Rated: TV-PG for off-color dialogue
Starring: Ben Savage, Rider Strong, and Danielle Fishel
Released: 1994 - 1995 (ABC premieres) / 2004 (DVD)
Synopsis: In this second season of the beloved '90's sitcom, Cory (Ben Savage) and his friends Shawn (Rider Strong) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) make the big leap into high school...and are immediately over their heads.  With their new young homeroom teacher Mr. Turner's (Anthony Tyler Quinn) unconventional teaching style, and their previous year's teacher Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) as their new principal, things are bound to get crazy.  Between Cory leading a student protest, Shawn's mother driving off with their mobile home, and Eric going crazy over the SATs, hilarity and teen drama abound!

The Good: This is one of the best-loved shows from the time in which I grew up, and was successful enough to launch a sequel series that currently airs on the Disney Channel.  It alternates between humor and heartbreak, but does a good job of it.  There's little profanity, which is kind of surprising for a major network sitcom of its time.  All in all, this was enjoyable, except...

The Bad: There was one major problem that ruined it for me: the off-color dialogue, as the TV rating mentioned.  While I expected a little, I didn't think it would be present in almost every episode, and from pretty much every character.  From playful banter between Cory's parents, to teens discussing sexual matters, to even an implied affair between Mr. Turner and another instructor...well, it was just too much.  If this entire set were rated by the MPAA, I can't help but think it would get a "PG-13".

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: As the rating says, off-color dialogue is present...in pretty much every episode, as mentioned above, and some of it comes from teens.  One episode features an implied affair between Cory and Topanga. 1/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; girl in bare-midriff outfit. 4/5
  • Language: Other than about five or six misuses of God's name, no actual profanity. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic pratfalls, as typical for the "situation comedy" genre. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout, especially in the last two episodes; the Halloween episode is slightly dark. 4/5
Conclusion: Back in the late '90's, I used to watch reruns of Growing Pains on the Disney Channel every day, provided I was at home when it was on and wasn't grounded from it.  Some episodes I saw more than once, and I gave up on it when I thought I'd seen every single episode...but, even if I hadn't jumped ship, I still would not have seen all of the adventures of the Seavers, because the Mouse network never showed some episodes because they weren't appropriate for the intended audience.  I was shocked after reading an online episode guide years later and seeing the synopses of some of the episodes; they were definitely not for children.  I mention this because Boy Meets World also ended up in reruns on the same cable channel...though I can't see how.  While the first season was fabulous, I found this mess hard to get through right from the get-go.  Discerning viewers should definitely take note.

Score: 2/5

14 February 2016

Quickie Movie Review: "Joni"

Rated: PG (for unspecified reasons)
Starring: Joni Eareckson Tada, Bert Remsen, and Katherine DeHetre
Released: 1979
Synopsis: Joni Eareckson (played by herself) was an average teenage girl...until one day, when, at the age of seventeen, a diving accident left her paralyzed from the neck down.  Learning to adapt to her new situation was hard enough, but Joni must also deal with the spiritual ramifications as well: How could God allow this to happen to her? A true story of tragedy and triumph, faith lost and found, and the power of family.

My Review: I hate to give this movie a bad review, because I've known the story of Joni Eareckson Tada all my life; my mom even had the book that inspired this movie when I was a kid.  However, I did not enjoy this film.  It spends too much time on unnecessary details of Joni's life, only to finish up with a rather sudden conclusion.  I have nothing against Mrs. Tada; I just wish the story of her life had been handled better.  Despite this being a classic Christian film, it did not make for very good viewing fare.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing and talk of romance being "more than what happens below the neck". 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; the camera seems to linger on a girl in a bikini; girls are seen in low-cut outfits occasionally; Joni spends much of the first half of the film wrapped in a sheet. 3/5
  • Language: Name-calling, and two or three usages of the n-word (though that is vilified). 3/5
  • Violence: A diving accident with lasting results; a girl uses her wheelchair to trip a nurse. 4/5
  • Drugs: A reference to smoking weed; cigarette smoking is occasionally seen. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout. 1/5
Score: 1.5/5

10 February 2016

TV DVD Review: "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero": Season 1.1

Rated: "General Audiences" (manufacturer's advisory)
Starring: Michael Bell, Neil Ross, and Chris Latta
Released: 1983 - 1985 (TV premieres) / 2009 (DVD)
Synopsis: G.I. Joe is the code name for America's special missions force; together, they defend the entire planet against the ruthless terror organization known as COBRA, who will stop at nothing to take over the world and put an end to the Joes once and for all! It's going to take everything the Joes have got to defeat COBRA and restore peace and order to the world...but, will it be enough?
Based on the line of toys from Hasbro.

The Good: What a ride! This show may have been before my time, but it definitely kept me hooked! The early episodes were better; they had more convoluted stories that kept me on the edge of my seat! Even though you know who will win in a series like this, sometimes it's hard to see how until they actually do.  The animation was great, and the voice work was very well done.  Fans of old-school Saturday morning serials should check this one out.

The Bad: As good as this is, there was one issue: A lack of closed captions or English subtitles makes this inaccessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.  That seems to be a common issue with Shout! Factory releases; hopefully, the studio will work on that in the future, if they haven't already.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Some guys are seen shirtless; others in tribal outfits; one or two female characters show cleavage.  All of it is made less sultry by the animation style. 4/5
  • Language: No actual profanity, but name-calling and lesser terms such as "butt" are present throughout. 4/5
  • Violence: By today's standards, this would likely be rated "TV-Y7" for fantasy violence.  The Joes, COBRA, and various other individuals are hit, kicked, shot at, thrown, etc., countless times; however, there's no blood, and the makers go out of their way to show that there are no fatalities. 2/5
  • Drugs: Occasional smoking. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, COBRA could be scary for some kids, and there are numerous scenes of peril.  Emotional intensity is present at times, and themes of terrorism may hit a raw nerve for some viewers. 2/5
  • Other: A lack of closed captions or subtitles makes this inaccessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. 4/5
Conclusion: Prior to watching the first Michael Bay film a few years ago, I was largely unfamiliar with this franchise; other than a game on my Commodore 64, I had next to no experience with G.I. Joe at all.  However, watching this makes me want to check it out some more; while I won't bother collecting the toys, I really enjoyed this show.  I'm glad I already have Season 1.2 in my collection; I hope to watch it fairly soon!

Score: 4.5/5

08 February 2016

Quickie Movie Review: "The Magnificent Seven"

Rated: PG (Canada)
Starring: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, and Steve McQueen
Released: 1960
Synopsis: Merciless Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his band of ruthless outlaws are terrorizing a poor Mexican village...and even the bravest lawmen can't stop them! Desperate, the locals hire Chris Adams (Yul Brynner, The Ten Commandments) and six other gunfighters to defend them.  With time running out before Calvera's next raid, the heroic seven must prepare the villagers for battle and help them find the courage to take back their town...or die trying!
(Adapted from the back cover of the DVD)

My Review: For a film this old, it looked and sounded incredible on every device on which I watched it: my Mac, my iPad, and even my tiny iPod touch! The makers did a great job remastering the sound and picture for the DVD medium.  Also, the cast is expansive, and the sets and scenery are wonderful.  Every good guy is admirable, and the main villain is utterly despicable.  However, this was harder-edged than I expected for an older flick--even a Western--and I was a bit disappointed with the ending, which I won't give away here.  It was still an enjoyable movie, but not without its rough spots; discerning viewers may want to proceed with caution.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Passionate kissing before the camera cuts away; a brief reference to rape. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys in one scene. 4/5
  • Language: At least six uses of the d-word, and four of the h-word; name-calling is also present. 3/5
  • Violence: True to the genre, gunfights are common; countless people are shot dead, especially in the final battle.  Though most of the film is bloodless, the film opens with a slightly bloody shooting, and the finale features two people being stabbed to death. 2/5
  • Drugs: Smoking and drinking throughout; a man is given a sedative of some sort. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, a scene or two of emotional intensity. 2/5
  • Other: Gambling is depicted a time or two. 4/5
Score: 3/5

24 January 2016

Movie Review: "The Story of Jacob and Joseph"

Rated: PG (for unspecified reasons)
Starring: Keith Michell, Tony Lo Blanco, and Colleen Dewhurst
Released: 1974
Synopsis: It's two timeless stories in one! First off: Jacob is jealous of his twin brother Esau; since Esau came out first, that makes him entitled to more.  Jacob cons his brother out of his birthright, even tricking their elderly, blind father.  Soon, Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine.  Will the two brothers ever reconcile their differences? Also: Joseph is despised by his twelve brothers, and is sold into slavery, only for a false accusation to land him in prison.  Just when things are looking bleak, Joseph lands the opportunity of a lifetime: the highest place in the court of the Pharaoh of Egypt.  When a famine hits the land, Joseph's brothers make the trek to Egypt to get food, not knowing that the man distributing it is their brother, whom they sent away! Joseph, however, recognizes his many siblings, and gives them an opportunity to prove if they've had a change of heart since their unthinkable act.  Will they do the right thing?
Based on parts of the Biblical book of Genesis.

The Good: Unlike some movies based on the Bible, this one stays true to the original text.  While some scenes and dialogue are added, the events are just what happened in Genesis.  The performances are great, and the scenery took me back to Bible times.  Some Bible-based movies are dry and boring, but this one kept me interested until the end.  All in all, pretty good stuff, except...

The Bad: Some of the scenes--particularly Jacob's dream about the ladder to heaven, which is merely implied--could have been a bit more dramatic.  Also, the ending of the Joseph part of the story felt a bit rushed.  Those are minor complaints, though.

Content Concerns: Given the source material, I won't do my usual listing, but I will say that this movie sticks to the Biblical text...including the parts that involve sex.  While nothing graphic is shown, I would think that, even by today's standards, this film would be "PG-13"; back when this flick was made, that rating didn't exist.  Also, the story of Joseph features shirtless guys throughout.

Conclusion: This is one of the few older movies I've seen that was based on the Bible; most of the celluloid adaptations of God's Word I've watched are from the '90's or later.  Some of them have been really good, whereas the last one I watched (The Greatest Story Ever Told) left a lot to be desired.  Well, I'm glad to say that this one is among the better ones I've watched.  Fans of classic cinema and the Bible should check this one out.

Score: 4/5

19 January 2016

Movie Review: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Harrison Ford
Released: December 18, 2015 (theaters)
Synopsis: Many years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the First Order, which rose from the ashes of the Empire, is bent on destroying Luke Skywalker, thought to be the last remaining Jedi.  After resistance pilot Poe Dameron comes across a droid containing a map to Luke's whereabouts, he meets Finn, a former Stormtrooper who is now fighting against the First Order; when Finn disappears, he and the mysterious Rey work together to keep the droid and its secret from harm.  The First Order has a weapon that can destroy multiple planets at once; will Finn and Rey be able to stop it, or is the galaxy doomed to be ruled by the First Order?
Directed by J.J. Abrams.

The Good: There's little I didn't like about this movie; I love sci-fi/action flicks, and this film definitely delivers.  The action scenes were definitely intense, and the plot has several twists, including one that I wasn't expecting.  While the story is fairly similar to A New Hope, there were enough new elements thrown in to make it feel like a different movie.  Bits of humor were also thrown in.  Rey makes a great female lead, and I'm glad they didn't have to make her show too much skin, like they did with Princess Leia and Padmé.  It's pretty much a throwback to the original trilogy, which is great, except...

The Bad: The violence was a bit bloody at times, and there were about three profanities, which is not what I'm used to from this franchise.  Those are small potatoes, though.

Content Concerns: I won't do my usual listing, but, I will say the violence is more intense than in the earlier films, which is why the rating is higher.  Also--and this is a spoiler, so, be warned--the death of Han Solo at the hands of his son may be too much for some viewers, including adults, to bear.

Conclusion: I've been a fan of Star Wars since 2000, when I saw The Phantom Menace on video.  Since then, I've watched the movies more than once, and I've also read countless tie-in novels and even a few comics.  Maybe I'm just biased, but, I thought this one was fabulous; I'm curious to see where the franchise goes from here.

Score: 4.5/5

09 January 2016

TV DVD Review: "The Legend of Zelda": The Complete Series

Rated: "General Audiences" (manufacturer's advisory)
Starring: Cyndy Preston, Jonathan Potts, and Tabitha St. Germain
Released: September 8 - December 1, 1989 (original TV premieres) / October 18, 2005 (DVD)
Synopsis: In the magical kingdom of Hyrule, heroic Link has the Triforce of Wisdom...but villainous Ganon will stop at nothing to get it; with it and the Triforce of Power, which he already has, he'll become the most powerful wizard in the land.  It's up to Link and Princess Zelda to stop Ganon from getting it and taking over Hyrule...but, with plenty of monsters at Ganon's disposal, saving the day will prove to be an arduous task.
Features live-action segments from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.  Based on the popular Nintendo video game franchise.

The Good: For a product of its time, the animation and graphics within this series are really good, as is the voice work.  Despite the stories being a bit short, these episodes mostly held my interest until the end.  While adventure may have been the main focus, the makers added in some humor as well, which was a nice touch.

The Bad: While the production values were great, the overall feel is a bit lackluster.  The live-action Mario segments are just dumb; one of them features Inspector Gadget! Also, a lack of English subtitles or closed captions make this inaccessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing people, unless they have an interpreter handy.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Much discussion is made of Link and Zelda kissing, and they almost do several times.  A live-action Mario segment features a girl with a crush on the infamous plumber. 4/5
  • Nudity: Zelda is seen in a (one-piece) bathing suit and in an off-the-shoulder, low-cut dress once; Sprite (a fairy) wears a short skirt that is also slit on the sides, and is seen in a low-cut outfit just once; Link is seen in a nightshirt a few times; one episode features shirtless guys at a distance. 3/5
  • Language: Name-calling; nothing more. 4/5
  • Violence: Fantasy violence is seen throughout, mostly with Link using his sword to shoot enemies who just magically disappear and usually respawn later.  No blood or gore is seen. 3/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Ganon and his minions could be scary to some kids; Link and Zelda find themselves in many perilous situations. 3/5
  • Other: Magic is used throughout the series; a live-action Mario segment features a psychic holding a séance. 3/5
Conclusion: While I used to be a big fan of Nintendo video games, the Zelda franchise was never one of my favorites.  I preferred the cuteness of Mario and Pokémon to the magical land of Hyrule.  Still, I thought I'd enjoy the series based on the games...and, to a degree, I did.  Still, I can't recommend purchasing this unless you're a die-hard fan of Zelda or the big "N" in general.  I'm glad I got my copy from the library, because I doubt I'll be giving this one a second look.

Score: 3/5

08 January 2016

Quickie DVD Review: "VeggieTales: The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's

Rated: G (Canada)
Starring: Phil Vischer, Lisa Vischer, and Mike Nawrocki
Released: October 9, 2007
Synopsis: Young Darby (Junior Asparagus) is tired of life at his father's floss farm; he wants to journey to the land of Ha's, where, he believes, he can do whatever he wants.  Darby defies his father's wishes and takes his money for college, when a tornado whisks him away to Munchie-Land, where he meets the Tin Man (Larry the Cucumber), the Lion (Pa Grape), and the Scarecrow (Mr. Lunt), who journey with him to Ha's.  When Darby's money runs out, he gets kicked out of Ha's...but is afraid to face his father because of what he has done.  Will Darby be forgiven for using up his college money? Meanwhile, Bob and Larry sing a Silly Song about being on safari!
Based on the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son.

My Review: The story of the Lost Son and The Wizard of Oz are a weird mix, but this Veggie episode makes it work really well.  The animation is outstanding, and most of the songs are really cute and fun; some of them are spoofs of tunes from the old-school Judy Garland film.  As usual, positive elements abound, and a great moral is driven home.  The only problem I had was with the Silly Song; after it ended, I wondered: Is that the best they could do? It was a far cry from the old-school numbers like "His Cheeseburger" and "The Hairbrush Song".  Other than that, though, I enjoyed it.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: None. 5/5
  • Violence: Mild slapstick. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: A bit of emotional intensity. 4/5
  • Other: Like the original Wizard of Oz, this episode deals with magic...but only slightly. 4/5
Score: 4/5