10 June 2017

Movie Review: "Motocross Kids"

Rated: PG for mild violence and language
Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Alana Austin, and Dan Haggerty
Released: 2004
Synopsis: Evan Hansen couldn't be prouder when his daughter Callie (Alana Austin, Motocrossed) wins a big championship! Unfortunately, just after her victory, she announces that she is retiring from motocross racing.  To find a new champion rider to train, Evan goes back to his old stomping grounds: the Bony Pony ranch.  Unfortunately, he discovers that the beloved place from his childhood is in danger of being overtaken...and by a motorcycle gang, no less! Three kids at the ranch make a bet with the gang members: If the Bony Pony riders win a race, they get to keep the ranch.  Just when victory seems close at hand, their champion rider sustains a debilitating injury! They'll need to find a replacement, and quick...but, who--or what--will it be?

The Good: As extreme sports movies go, this one was pretty good.  The BMX action was on point, and the plot kept me interested, even though the conclusion was pretty much as expected.  Unlike many films, this one did not betray its MPAA rating; everything stayed within "PG" boundaries.

The Bad: Despite its great production values and clean content, this film still seemed a bit lackluster; then again, I'm not much of a sports fan, so, what do I know? Even though I enjoyed it, I kind of wish I had gotten it from the library instead of buying it.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None.
  • Nudity: Midriff and brief cleavage.
  • Language: One d-word; one bleeped word during the outtakes at the film's end; other than that, language is limited to name-calling and euphemisms such as "heck" and "jeez".
  • Violence: Rough-and-tumble sports action, including one accident that leads to a broken arm; a barroom brawl that is not bloody or graphic, but still a bit drawn-out.
  • Drugs: None.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The motorcycle gang is a bit scary, and the jeers they make at the heroes smack of bullying; the accident scene involving the broken arm; scenes of emotional intensity.
Conclusion: Even though I'm not a sports fan, I am a movie lover, and I can appreciate a well-made film with sports as its theme.  I've watched and enjoyed other similar flicks, including both ones made by the Disney Channel (Double Teamed, Motocrossed) and ones from other studios (Hoosiers, The Climb).  While I probably won't watch this one again, I enjoyed seeing it over the past seven days.  Unless you're a complete motocross fanatic, I can only recommend renting this, though.

Score: 3.5/5

03 June 2017

Movie Review: "La La Land"

Rated: PG-13 for some language
Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Released: December 16, 2016
Synopsis: Mia (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man) is a barista with one very big aspiration: to become an actress in Tinseltown.  Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a big jazz fan with hopes of opening up his own jazz club one day.  When they meet, love blooms, and they soon become an item...but, when problems arise, their relationship is soon put to the test.  Can their love survive in the midst of their grand aspirations?

The Good: I'm pretty sure this is the first movie I've seen that was even nominated for Best Picture since Toy Story 3.  Usually, I avoid such flicks for obvious reasons, but, my sources said that this was cleaner than usual for "PG-13" fare, so, I checked it out.  Production-wise, I wasn't disappointed.  An excellent soundtrack, great acting from the two leads, exhilarating visuals...what's not to like?

The Bad: As good as this is, I do have some complaints.  While this is not one of those should-have-been-R films, discerning viewers may take issue with this movie nonetheless.  There's right many profanities, including one f-word, and the two leads have an implied sexual relationship outside of marriage.  One scene even shows someone flipping someone else off, which is later repeated in a flashback.  Outside of the content, despite the appearance of this film as a musical, much of the storytelling is done via instrumental montages.  [Spoiler Warning!] The biggest issue I had, though, was with the ending.  An epilogue that tells us what happens "five years later" doesn't make any sense; we see them going on a date at a club, then their future is laid out before us, then they're on the way to the same date again.  How did this get nominated for Best Picture? [End Spoilers]

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: An implied sexual relationship between the two leads.
  • Nudity: Women are seen in bikinis at a pool party; Mia wears some backless gowns.
  • Language: Eight or so misuses of God's name, including two "g------ms" and one "my Lord".  Four s-words, four a-words, one d-word, one p-word, and one f-word, alongside two middle-finger gestures.
  • Violence: None.
  • Drugs: People are seen drinking alcoholic beverages in several scenes.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Multiple scenes of emotional intensity.
Conclusion: Unless they fall into the superhero, sci-fi/fantasy, or Christian genres, I rarely watch "PG-13" films.  Among discerning viewers and possibly others, movies with that rating are known for getting the reaction, "That should have been rated 'R'!" While I wouldn't say that about this flick, I still didn't enjoy it that well.  Even with the language and sexual implications eliminated, it wasn't that great of a film, especially when it came to the ending.  If you haven't seen this yet, I would caution you: No matter what your rules are about what you will and won't watch...you can do better.

Score: 2/5

Movie Review: "Repeat Performance"

Rated: Not Rated (Dove Approved for ages twelve and up)
Starring: Joe Manning, Lisa Crittenden, and Christopher Page
Released: 1996
Synopsis: Things have not been going well for New Zealand teen Sean Purchase (Joe Manning).  Not only did his mother leave him when he was only seven years old, but his father recently committed suicide, leaving his father's girlfriend as his sole guardian.  Just when things seemingly can't get any worse, Sean's so-called friend Aaron hits and kills a child with Sean's car...with Sean in the passenger seat! With the police on the lookout for him, it seems that he has nowhere to turn.  Will he ever be proven innocent?
From World Wide Pictures.

The Good: For a 1990s Christian movie, this is actually well-done.  The actors all do very well, and the plot kept me involved.  Having New Zealand as the setting adds a bit of charm.  Even the closed captioning--which has been either absent or poorly done in many an "inspirational" film--was very good in this movie.

The Bad: Despite the production values, this still doesn't go down as one of the best Christian movies I've seen.  It's rather short--barely over an hour, counting closing credits--but, the biggest complaint I have is the ending. [Spoiler Warning!] The plot threads are left completely unresolved.  Did Sean face community service, jail time, or neither? Did Aaron ever confess his mistake? The film doesn't say! It's almost like an unfinished product, which is disappointing. [End Spoilers!]

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: It is implied that Sean's mother and father are both in illicit sexual relationships.
  • Nudity: None.
  • Language: Name-calling, at worst.
  • Violence: A man commits suicide (implied); a kid is hit by a car and killed (not graphic, but intense); chase scenes involving a kid running from the police.
  • Drugs: Two teens drink, and end up in an automobile accident as a result.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout, especially regarding the death of the child; a kid seems to consider suicide.
Conclusion: World Wide Pictures is a movie ministry of sorts sponsored by Billy Graham, who gets a few minutes of screen time in this film.  As a Christian, I feel conflicted by this film; the wonderful production values make me proud, but the briefness of the movies and the inane ending upset me.  Even fans of Christian cinema may feel disappointed; I know I was.  It's a shame that a film with such potential was ruined like this.

Score: 2/5