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

Quickie Movie Review: "The Greatest Story Ever Told"

Rated: G for general audiences (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Max von Sydow, Michael Anderson, Jr., and Carroll Baker
Released: 1965
Synopsis: This glorious epic is an inspiring, grand-scale re-creation of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, from his humble birth and teachings to his crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.  Lavishly produced at a cost of $20 million--an enormous amount for the time--and honored with five 1965 Academy Award nominations, this exceptional motion picture is exquisitely beautiful.  Presented in its original theatrical brilliance, it is truly The Greatest Story Ever Told.
(Adapted from the back cover of the DVD)

My Review: The scope and production values of this movie were incredible; despite its three-hour-plus length, it kept me interested the whole time.  A few of the performances were outstanding.  However, I had two big issues with this film: First off, I did not care for the guy who played Jesus; he came off to me as cold and stodgy, not how I would envision the Savior of the world.  I much prefer Bruce Marchiano's smiling Jesus to the one in this film.  Second off, this flick took too much liberty with the Scriptures; throughout watching it, I kept thinking, That's not how it happened! While such a movie could be used to evangelize, those who are new to the Scriptures might be disappointed to see that what they saw onscreen is nowhere to be found in the pages of the Gospels.  Despite this movie being considered a classic, I can't recommend it.

Content Concerns: I don't do my usual listing for movies based on the Bible, but, I will say that there is some violence in this film, and it gets bloody a time or two.  Also, the story where the woman is caught in adultery is found in this flick, and the stately language might go over younger viewers' heads, especially if they were not raised around the King James Bible.

Score: 2/5