Movie’s I’ve seen this Month: July

Best. Month. Ever. That is, so far. In the month of July, I saw four films and loved every single one of them. It was hard to rank these movies, but if I am being honest, there is a clear winner whether I want it to be or not. Let’s talk about them.

1: The Gazebo.

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Where do I even begin with this film? A television writer is being blackmailed by a man who has nude pictures of his wife. He hatches a plan to murder the blackmailer and things go awry. This is a film that, if you just tell someone the plot, they begin to lose respect for you. And you may be wondering why someone (me) who prides themselves in being discerning and critical of objectionable content would see such a film. In fact, while watching this film, all I could think of, was “How am I going to review this?” Well first off, let’s get one thing clear: there is no nudity. There is no blood. There are a few cuss words but that is it. This is a 1959 black and white comedy, based on a Broadway smash that reminds me of why censorship was such a marvelous thing. Nowadays a story like this would not have the same tact that this film so expertly showcases. This movie is at the top of the list because I have not laughed so hard while watching a film in years (maybe the last time was when I saw The Great Race for the first time.) The acting is amazing. The writing is superb at being both witty, and macabre at the same time. I don’t wish to spoil the end of the movie, because I highly recommend watching it, but let’s just say it all works out in the end.

2: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

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Honestly, I wanted this film to be number 1. This is the kind of film I would want to make as a filmmaker. It is a Christian comedy. The EXACT subgenre I want to aim for. And this movie does deliver. It is funny, and it is Christian. Albeit, more Christian than funny, but there are still some laugh out loud moments. The storytelling is unique and fairly sturdy, and while we don’t get a huge glimpse into each character, the actors perform in a way where you can see where they come from. It is entirely predictable, and delivers what you not only expect it to be, but what you WANT it to be. As the main character begins playing Jesus in the church play, he begins to understand Jesus’ character in a way that feels believable while also steering the plot. As far as Christian films go, this is a nice, surprisingly dramatic film that you won’t mind seeing again. Unlike most Christian films which leave you teary eyed, and reluctant to relive the characters tragedies.

3: The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming!

Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, The

In a different month, this would be higher. I had seen some clips from this movie on TV occasionally, but never seen the whole thing. But it is an “epic comedy” and since I am a fan of that genre, I wanted to give it a try. The beginning is slow for sure, with no English subtitles, but trust me, give it time until you see the comic genius Carl Reiner appear. This film properly snowballs into complete chaos, and must have been bold to make with the Cuban Missile Crisis only a few years ago. It paints the Russians as people. It has a why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along? Feel to it that really makes this comedy carry some weight. The characters are great and the hijinks are super fun. Jonathan Winters is a blast as always.

4: Sands of Iwo Jima

sands of iwo jima

Saddle up! It’s John Wayne. And it was free on Amazon Prime. While this film isn’t great, it is fun to see John Wayne in something that I haven’t seen before. Especially in a non-Western role (something very rare indeed.) Mixed with some real footage, this film at times feels real. But other moments have that old Hollywood sap. Not to say that’s a bad thing. There are some look away moments and some surprisingly harsh racist rhetoric towards the Japanese. I would not recommend this film for families unless you have children interested in the military or history. While you can look away, the second half of the film is all battle scenes, and if kids don’t understand that the racist remarks aren’t acceptable, it can lead to some awkward situations.

 

All in all, I really liked these four films. Almost all of them were comedies which is the genre I prefer. Going into the end of the year, I will add The Gazebo and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone to the list of best films I saw in 2017. What did you watch this month? Would you watch these films? Let me know and see you next time!

When God says “Wait!”

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Just when I think: this is it. This will be the one, God reminds me to chill, make memories, and laugh.
There is a Christian film festival that is currently asking for submissions from filmmakers. This is where my heart is at, so I have been thinking about how to create a Christian short film. A few days ago, I got discouraged when I looked at all the projects that I have done in the past and that none of them have an evangelical message. But I relax and remind myself that I do not have the resources to make something reverential. My writing is not there. My actors (my cousins) are not there. My equipment is not there. If I saw an attempt at something serious and meaningful with the resources that I have, made by someone else, I would laugh at the quality and completely miss the message. So in the meantime I write comedy. Over the top, ridiculous comedy. Each time I think the quality will get better. That I will show marked improvement and really take a step forward. I had this opportunity on the Fourth of July to film a short that I had written called “Heartburn Hotel.” But through all the chaos of trying to set up lights, a microphone and a camera, God reminded of what’s important. Why I started making films with my family in the first place: memories. The chaos, the unprofessional tone, and the hour long blooper reel. It’s like God is telling me “wait.” Why try to make gold when you don’t even have copper?

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It’s not about getting better and fine tuning my skills. It’s about learning to work around set backs. It’s about creating a fun environment and laughter….lots of laughter. Will it edit down to something cohesive? Likely not. We didn’t even get the chance to film the entire script. But what we did create, were memories. And when the cousins grow older and leave for college, as some have already, we can talk about those days. And that’s what it really is about right now. As filmmakers we create memories and special moments for our characters. We remind our audience of an experience where they felt the same way. While I haven’t reached that level yet, I am creating those experiences for my family and I. Our characters could care less about the adventures that we have acted out, but I know that I will never forget these special memories. So in the meantime I lug around my camera to every family gathering. I write the most ridiculous lines and try to come up with characters that fit their personalities. While editing these shorts I have learned valuable lessons from special effects, changing angles, retakes, music and sound effects, to even color grading. Am I learning? Yes, but that should never be the focus. Instead, I need to focus on honoring God with clean humor, and creating lasting bonds within my family. Forever preserved in the medium of film.

Films I’ve seen this month: June

Halfway through the year already! Wow, time seems to flyby just by doing this series of posts!

I watched five films this month, and only two were for the first time. I had no idea I watched so many films repeatedly. But the two new films I watched this month were two of my absolute favorite of this year and I can’t wait to review them. So here goes.

 

1: Hidden Figures.

Hidden Figures Day 28

Wow. I’m going to be hard-pressed to find a film that will beat the sheer masterpiece that was Hidden Figures. I’m not even sure where to begin about this film other than the fact that it was everything I wanted it to be. From the opening scene where the three main women are stranded on the side of the road (though I’m told that the mechanics of it were incorrect) to the final scene, this film flowed beautifully. So, let’s break it down of why it worked so well: The story. The story is a true story about an African American woman who became integral to the NASA program in the 1960s. This story only became known to the public recently because of the classified information involved, but in my opinion, it couldn’t come at a better time. While sometimes it felt dramatized, a simple google search will prove that the crazy aspects were true. The acting: whew the acting was incredible. Taraji P. Henson did deserve an Oscar nomination. While I have not seen La La Land, I find it hard to believe that Emma Stone could have topped the impressive range which Taraji P. Henson showcased in this film. Just about everyone in this film made their characters believable, and endearing (except for a few who were supposed to be unlikable.) This is easily the best film I have seen this year. The directing: The directing was amazing. I can learn a lot from the way this film was directed. The coloring, the angles, the small touches, everything was done in such an impressive way that you just get sucked into this world and never want to leave. And finally, the last thing that struck me as so cool was The Music. Pharrell Williams is an interesting dude. Some of the rap records he has produced are some of the worst albums out there as far as degrading of women. Yet for this film, a film about three bright intelligent women, he has written some truly wonderful songs. The soundtrack feels at once old school, and fresh at the same time. The lyrics further prove points and keep the story moving. If I could write an entire blog post about Hidden Figures, I would, but I must move on to other films. In conclusion, if you haven’t seen this film yet, watch it. It is inspirational, educational, and thoroughly enjoyable. Which is honestly three traits that I would give to the next film as well…

2: Queen of Katwe.

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And they say chess is boring. Well, chess never had that stigma in my house growing up. The “cool kids” in church were chess fanatics. One of our friends made a chess clock app (sorry, my homeschooler is showing.) But this chess film is not about chess. It is about the importance of education. It is about the struggles that young people in Africa face on a daily basis. And it is about the amazing work that God can do through his people. Moreover, it is a true story. Technically this is part of Disney Film’s sports series (Million Dollar Arm, McFarland USA) and I must say they are on a pleasant streak. Queen of Katwe is such an enjoyable, and surprisingly well-done film that you forget about the clichés of the story. This could have easily been a cheesy, TV movie. But Disney filmed most of, if not the entire film, in Africa. They cast a girl who is from Uganda instead of going with a child actress from the states. This film feels surprisingly real. It is one that is clean without shying away from series subject matter. If it wasn’t for Hidden Figures, this would be at the top of the list. But this film is still one of the best I have seen all year.

3: Belle

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This is a film I saw last year I think. But my brother was up at law school, so we decided to show him the film last night. The only negative thing I can really say about this film are the inappropriate outfits. You have to hold up your hand to block the bottom half of the screen, but the film is worth it. It is border line a chick flick, but it has enough legal intrigue I think to prevent it from becoming a film just for women. The story is again based on a true story, and once again is about a young black woman. Hidden Figures, Queen of Katwe, and Belle all have very similar stories, though they take place on three different continents and are set in different time periods. What is so cool about these three films though, is the fact that genius comes from every demographic and economic background. Belle is a film with lofty language, good posture, and an insane amount of camera shots with mirrors. But it all fits to make this a beautifully done love story that is really about one woman who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere.

4: Cars

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In anticipation to Cars 3, I decided to go back and watch the first one. While some people don’t rank this very high in the Pixar canon, this film will always hold a special place in my heart. It was one of the few films I saw in theaters growing up. I even lost a tooth during the film thanks to an un-popped kernel. The film is simple, humorous, and all around a great time. I still enjoy watching the animation, listening to the great soundtrack, and reciting my favorite lines. The main things this film did for me this time around, was get me hyped for Cars 3.

5: True Grit

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Growing up, John Wayne was THE actor. Out of all the actors in Hollywood past and present, I saw more movies with John Wayne than any other actor. True Grit is my Mom’s go to film when she’s not feeling well. So, when we all got sick earlier this month, it was just a matter of time before True Grit was playing on the TV. While this isn’t my favorite John Wayne film, it’s still one of his best performances and his charisma makes up for some of the obnoxious acting. All in all, I can’t bring really any new revelations about this film because I have seen it way too many times.

So, going forward, the clear winners of this month and the two films I will place to be in the top films I saw this year are:

Hidden Figures and Queen of Katwe.

Have you seen any of these films? What did you watch this month? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

We Win!

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I started this blog to learn how to write non-fiction. And like a teenage boy going through puberty, this blog is still trying to find its voice. Its own unique take on the world and its occupants. So bear with me, as this blog squeaks and cracks along until it finds a mature (maybe) voice among all the chatterboxes of the internet.

  Sometimes we as humans can get discouraged by the circumstances that this sinful world sends our way. Good people seem to get punished, while evil seems to have its way. However, as a Christian I am constantly reminded that this world is messy because of what we’ve done to it. There are no good people. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Is that pessimistic? Yeah if you stop there. Orson Welles once said that if you want a happy ending, it all depends on where you end the story. Well in that case, let’s look ahead. Because Jesus came to this earth to live a sinless life. He died on the cross as a payment for our sins. And on the third day, he rose from the grave. Later, he ascended into Heaven where he sits at the right hand of his Father. And while sin still runs rampant, there are those who are washed clean from the eternal consequences of our actions. They have repented of their sins, confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and they have asked God to take over their lives. I am one of those people. And for those who have let Christ in, we know the story does not end there. He will come back one day, wiping out evil. This song  by MercyMe has reminded me of that the last few weeks, and it perfectly sums up why I called this blog “Death to pessimism.” Not because this world is full of pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows, (though that would be awesome) but because this is not how it ends. In the end… We Win!

I don’t, have to know you, just to know you
Have been lied to at some point or place
Well, I can relate
And you’re wondering, if it’s worth it
Heartbroken, feeling worthless
Oh the hurt is too great
Like a punch in the face

But don’t forget
We’ve got something else in common
Bigger than all our pain and all our problems

This goes out to anyone down for the count
It’s not over
Don’t give up, don’t throw in the towel
Just remember, who you belong to
Let Me remind you
How this ends
We win
Woah, we win

We get pushed down, we get beat up
So afraid life’s gonna keep us
Up against the ropes
But hang on there’s hope
‘Cause if Christ is inside us it won’t be a fair fight
‘Cause Deep down we know
How the story goes

This goes out to anyone down for the count
It’s not over
Don’t give up, don’t throw in the towel
Just remember, who you belong to
Let Me remind you
How this ends
We win
Woah, we win
We win
Woah, we win

Ain’t no stopping us
He’s not done with us
We are more
More than conquerors
Ain’t no stopping us
He’s not done with us
We, are
More than conquerors!

Just remember, who you belong to
Let Me remind you
How this ends
We win
Woah, we win
We win
Woah, we win

Ain’t no stopping us
He’s not done with us
We are more
More than conquerors
Ain’t no stopping us
He’s not done with us
We, are
More than conquerors!

Ain’t no stopping us
He’s not done with us
We are more
More than conquerors
Ain’t no stopping us
He’s not done with us
We, are
More than conquerors!

 

Films I’ve seen this month: May

First of all, let me say welcome to the new followers that made it to the next post! for those of you who are not familiar, I do mini reviews of each movie I see each month (you can find the previous months here here here and here.) I am pleased to say that this is the first month in doing this series of posts, that an old movie was my favorite! I have always loved old movies, but I have come to the realization that I have seen most of the good ones. But this month I found a real hidden gem.

1: Ace in the hole.

ace in the hole

Was there anyone better at writing dialogue than Billy Wilder? Maybe Neil Simon? I’m not sure. Some like it Hot has been a family favorite and I have seen the movie many times. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing a comical masterpiece. Though fare warned, just because it’s black and white, does not mean it is clean. Another Billy Wilder classic which I have enjoyed, is Sunset Boulevard. Knowing he had made these two films took away any hesitation I had about watching Ace in the hole. And boy am I glad I did! Even though I am an optimist at heart, I find some cynical movies highly entertaining. Mainly because the dialogue is usually heavy with sarcasm (an art of which I am very fond of.) And Ace in the hole is a film where cynicism really pays off. In a world where the media is seen as unreliable and crooked, it was interesting to see the media portrayed in the same light in 1951. The storyline is super simple: a journalist finds a man who is trapped in a cave and decides to do everything in his power to keep him there, while he milks the story for multiple days as his ticket to the top of the journalist world. The world of journalism has always been stained by cutthroat people, willing to break moral and legal laws. This film does a great job of setting up a man who is desperate. So, desperate that he commits deeds he later regrets and tries to stop. Since this a film noir, that means that there are only about two good people in the entire film. It also means that the dialogue and story are rich and entertaining. Kirk Douglas is especially great. I’ve seen him in a few things (20,000 leagues under the sea, War Wagon, Man from snowy river) but I think this to be my favorite performance of his. He plays a wide range of emotions and continues to unravel as the film progresses. Tons of people flock to the site of the man trapped inside the cave, showing that stories went “viral” long before the invention of the internet. One of the things which seems unbelievable about the film is that a circus sets up outside of the cave. Making money hand over fist while a poor man is trapped inside a cave. But as I thought about it later, the circus was symbolic: The media is a circus. It is crazy, unhinged, a little scary and creepy. The carnival music in the background really helps set the tone of things getting out of hand. The more I thought about this film, the more I really liked it. There was thought put into the scrip and filming. The acting was great, and there were consequences for people’s actions. It’s hard to talk about it without giving any of the story away, so I’ll leave it at that, and go the number two on the list.

2: The Great Gilly Hopkins.

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From the trailer, I was expecting this film to be sweet and cliché. And it was sweet, but not entirely cliché, which was a plus. This film does make you feel good, but it really breaks your heart before it gives you a happy ending. I was sold on the idea when I saw that Sophie Nélisse was playing the lead. She was phenomenal on Book Thief, so it was fun to see her playing a totally different character, which is a testament to her talent. This girl has a long and bright future as an actress. The dialogue was surprisingly raw and painful for a kid’s movie. There was a lot of cursing, mostly done by kids, so if that is something you don’t like, you may want to think twice before seeing this film. I usually dislike children cursing in films, but it is mainly done by the girl, who is a foster child acting out, so it feels natural. She also starts to teach an innocent boy how to swear, unbeknownst to him that it is wrong. Everyone in this movie nails their parts. Kathy Bates is the anchor that gives this film weight, and believability. Octavia Spencer shines as the teacher. Bill Cobbs is great as the gentle blind neighbor. Glen Close is heartbreaking as the grandmother. The social worker also shines in that he holds his own with some intimidating performances. This film was not a blockbuster, and it is not Oscar worthy. But it does blow some of the other movies of the same genre out of the water. And that deserves to be applauded.

3: Mr. Bean’s Holiday.

Film Title: Mr Bean's Holiday

Sometimes all you ask of a movie is for it to make you laugh. And who can make you laugh without even saying a word, better than Rowan Atkinson? While Mr. Bean’s Holiday is not as good as the Johnny English movies, it is still fun to see an iconic character take his adventures to the big screen. Two people very near and dear to me had seen this film in theaters and absolutely HATED it, so I felt like I was jeopardizing my relationships just by watching this film. So first of off, I am sorry, let me just say that I totally understand why you wouldn’t have liked it. And I hope you’ll forgive me because…

I liked it.  I really did. So much of it worked for me. There was actually a plot, very similar to silent film comedies. Some of the scenes are pure genius. The supporting cast offers Mr. Bean a chance to really react in his great way. He is a simple man, who wants to go to the beach. But he constantly makes things worse for everyone around him. I honestly didn’t think it would be this easy to watch a feature length adventure of Mr. Bean, but this movie is nicely paced. It has songs, background noises. Other people talking, and even Mr. Bean himself says things every once in a while. Though his voice is actually kind of annoying. Yet funny. I found its playful critique of the art of film being taken too seriously a breath of fresh air (perhaps somewhere on the beach.) However, even though this film satisfied my curiosity, and made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, I still am not putting it forward to be considered in my list for “Best films I saw this year.” That honor is left to The Great Gilly Hopkins and Ace in the Hole

And with that, there is the end of the month of May. Thanks for reading! What films did you see this month? Have you seen any of these before? Let me know in the comments.

Rediscovering

 

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With summer break, my brother studying for the bar exam, and coming down with a cold, I decided to reexamine my novel. You see, during my senior year of high-school, I wrote a 60,000-word novel. Then dropped the project faster than an ADHD squirrel switches between acorns. A year ago, I had almost completely reimagined the story. Writing out a detailed outline of the entire book. I had even got up to 20,000 words… then dropped it again. I struggle with finishing projects. I think everyone does. But the beauty of a novel, is that it never rots away. These digital files have remained untouched, just waiting for me to pick them up again. It’s been just a few days, but I have already begun making glorious plans for this book. Plans that will no doubt remain unfinished for years. But no matter. This is a story I believe is worth telling. It’s a story which is the exact kind of tale I love. Adventure, high stakes, gore free violence, humor, and most importantly of all: a Christian message. You, as the reader will likely never see the complete works of this story. But it has been immense fun to read over the sentences. See the same mental images that I imagined long ago. See them play out like some fond memory of the past. I usually don’t do this for fear of receiving negative feedback, but I have decided to give you a taste, just a taste, of the serious, dramatic side of my writing. No gags, no inside jokes. Just pure adventure. Enjoy!          

Two days passed. Mushito began to remember one of the lessons the old monks had taught him. “Out of great journey, comes great beauty.” He had thought they had been talking about perseverance. But as Mushito continued the trail to “The River of the gods”, he found the phrase to be completely literal. After walking through endless shades of green jungle for what seemed to be weeks, Mushito was now standing in front of the most beautiful site he had ever seen. As if in a trance, he began to move closer, unaware that his feet were even moving. Up the side of a gray rock mountain, stood a perfectly carved stairway which led to a waterfall of enormous height. Crystal clear water flowed down into a peaceful lake. Like most people, when they are confronted with the beauty of God’s wonderful creation, Mushito’s eyebrows rose and his mouth opened. He felt a strange moist feeling on his feet. It was only then, that Mushito looked down to see pure, pink sand spread across the ground as smooth as silk. But all of these wondrous sights were miniscule in comparison, when Mushito saw the small building atop the mountain, right next to the waterfall. The building, which clearly was a temple, had been carved out of the stone. But what Mushito found so fascinating, were the obvious black marks on the stone; clearly from some massive fire. A wicked grin spread across the young boy’s thin lips. His heart was beating fast and strong. One small thought surged through his mind in a singsong tone: found you.

 

 

 

Movies I’ve seen this Month: April

It’s hard to convince the world wide web that you are a “film critic” when you’ve only seen two movies in one month. Yet that’s what happened folks. Between doing school, and watching tv shows, I didn’t have the time to commit to a movie very often. So without further ado, here are the two movies I saw this month.

 

Lion

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Wow. Where to begin on something like this? Lion is by far the greatest movie I have seen this year. Maybe better than anything I saw last year. Up front I feel like I should say that this is NOT a film to show kids. It is rated PG-13 for a reason. The mature themes of this movie, coupled with the heartbreaking reality of the street children in India, makes this movie for older teens and adults only. But if you like movies that are based on true stories, this movie is for you. It tells the true, and remarkable story of a man who got lost and could not find his home in India when he was a young boy. He ends up in an orphanage where he is adopted by an Australian couple. Once he is an adult, he begins to use Google Earth to try and locate his biological family. This movie is superbly made in every way. From the directing, acting, editing, and the locations, all contribute to make this a masterpiece. While it is not a fun, or relaxing film, it is one which showcases the power of cinema. In just two hours, you feel a call to action to help the many street children of India. The movie’s website lists existing charities that are in India who help with the very issues that the man experienced in real life.  This is why Hollywood thinks they are so powerful. IT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE! Whether we like it or not, film is a powerful tool than can persuade better than almost any other medium.
I know many families who have adopted who came to my mind while I watched this movie. The film does such a great job of examining the process from both the child’s, as well as the adopted parents point of view. If watched at the right age, I can see this film being very healing to adopted families. On a very light side note, make sure your subtitles are on. When my family and I began watching the film, we did not have them on, and missed out on a lot of translated dialogue. We had to rewind the film to catch up on all we had missed.

 

 

 

Dance with me, Henry.
dance with me henry

 

Major tonal shift!!! I am not sure if I have ever said this on my blog or not, but those who know me, know I am a HUGE Abbott and Costello fan. Since I was very young, my family has watched Abbott and Costello movies. Out of the 36 films that the duo made, I have seen 32 of them. (And watching them all, is almost always at the forefront of my mind.) However, until this month, I had never seen their last film. But I finally found a way to watch it, and I settled in to watch the curtain fall on my favorite comedy team. A comedy team who has influenced my style of comedy, my desire to make films, and even just a desire to make my friends and family laugh. My one brother and I even used to recite the who’s on first? Routine. However, I am not so blinded by my love for Abbott and Costello, that I cannot recognize when a film of theirs is bad. And this one is…bad. I had heard that in their last three films, the magic is gone. And that is true for Dance with me, Henry. What strikes me about this particular A&C film, is that the world had clearly moved on from Abbott and Costello. In their prime, they were kings of the box office (E.g. Dwayne Johnson, or Scarlett Johansson.) but by the time 1956 rolled around, the public had grown tired of the duo, Universal had let them go, and personal tragedies and health issues had taken away their energy and youthfulness. While they used to have the biggest musical acts in their films such as the Andrews Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald, Abbott and Costello’s characters in Dance with me, Henry are old curmudgeons, put off by the new wave of music. In a rare turn, Costello is the one who is thinking clearly, and Abbott is the one who isn’t thinking clearly and ends up getting them in trouble. It’s a switch that doesn’t work. Abbott had to be clever, and cunning. This time he is a wimp, and apologetic, and it does not serve the duo well. Costello tries a more subdued role which works sometimes, but is mostly just sad. Like seeing a childhood friend who doesn’t smile anymore. Whoever MGM put in charge of putting this film together, they did not get what made Abbott and Costello great. This film tries to reimagine them in a way that doesn’t work. I also can’t tell whether this film tried to be serious, or it was just lacking in jokes. In the end, you are better off watching just about any of their films from 1941-1950.

If you recall in my post last month I moved three movies (instead of two) to be considered for best film of the year. This ended up working really well since I am not adding Dance with me, Henry. Lion is the one of the two that deserves to be added later. In fact, if the year was over today, Lion would win my best film. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it. It will tear your heart out. In a good way.

 

Movies I’ve seen this Month: March

 

March was my favorite month of films so far! Not only was every movie new to me, I don’t think I regretted watching a single one! (okay, maybe one.) So I am taking advantage of spring break and sitting down to rank the movies I watched in March.

L_06889.NEF

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1: Loving.

 

After I saw the movie Loving, I knew this would be the number one movie for this month, if not this entire year! One of my older brothers is about to become a lawyer and as such, my family has become more and more interested in law. So when there is a critically acclaimed film, that has to do with a famous Supreme Court ruling? Um….Pass the popcorn please. At the beginning, this film is very slow, and very quiet. We had to turn the volume almost all the way up. But you begin to get the idea that this is what the filmmakers wanted. There is a lot of ambience, including a demonstration between the sounds of town living, vs. country living without using any dialogue! The camera angles aren’t flashy or stylish. There are few if any, angry rants filled with profanity. It is instead, a very simple, very believable film about a man and a woman who wanted the legal and spiritual recognition of marriage. But the greatest irony of it is that they were not looking to expose the racism of the deep south. Honestly, they didn’t think it would be that big of an issue. And it is this simple plea, which makes the couple so endearing. The performances were amazing in this movie. I had only seen Joel Edgerton as the lovable dad in Disney’s The odd life of Timothy Green so seeing him as a blond blue eyed southerner, blew my mind. The simple, blue collar love story, and its historical ramifications make this film a very fascinating and heartwarming story.

 

galaxy quest

 

2: Galaxy Quest

 

First off, I want to say that I watched this film edited and I recommend it edited. As a rule, I try not to watch things which take God’s name in vain. But I decided to make an exception and was rewarded with an otherwise fairly clean comedy. With a great cast of supporting characters, Tim Allen is able to shine, without the weight of carrying the movie. It also helps that he was coming off the success of Home Improvement and was at the top of his game. The film is funny, adventurous, and very memorable. It pokes fun at the Sci-Fi community, yet still catering towards that demographic. It’s an interesting balance, and something which I think serves the film really well. The dated CGI sticks out, but you still get sucked into the world. The story is clever, and gives the actors chances to over act for comedic value. It seems a little silly to say, but I actually miss the 90s, and early 2000s movies. In some ways, new movies climaxes are all about shots that are almost completely created using CGI. I miss the old days where you could see the actors actually act out the climax between the hero and villain without them just standing in front of a green screen to deliver a little dialogue before cutting to an all CGI fight.

 

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3: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

 

Well in the end, Pete’s Dragon was a letdown. Yet, it wasn’t. This movie really confused me. Not because the plot is intricate. It is extremely straight forward. But I didn’t love the movie as much as I wanted to. Critics loved it. While the film was being made, I followed the directors blog posts as he gave inside information about the project. I ended up over hyping the movie to where I was disappointed while I watched it. But as this movie continues to replay in my head, I begin to love it more and more. By the time I’m writing this post, I realize that the problems I had with this movie are becoming crystal clear: I was not the demographic. In a world where Pixar caters to young adults, and superhero movies are rated R, I found Pete’s Dragon to be dated…And in the end, that’s what won me over. This movie has an old-fashioned Disney feel. Filled with both the good and the bad. There are no innuendoes. It is rated for language, but the language is the phrase “Hellfire” which someone uses to describe the Dragon’s eyes. There was no romance story between the two kids. The body count was super low, except for the loss of parents at the beginning, and the film had morals. MORALS PEOPLE! That hasn’t happened in a Disney movie for far too long. They also used tranc darts, which I have advocated to be used in kid’s movies for years. The pace for the most part is laid back and sweet. It is very slow, and I wish there had been more dialogue but kids don’t want dialogue. They want shots of a boy playing hide and seek with a very magical dragon. And this movie delivered. I’d say it is one of the most family friendly offerings I have seen in a long time, and it reminded me of the old days when Disney didn’t make PG-13 films, and actually tried to have morals in their stories. In conclusion, though some of the acting is pretty bad, (looking at you Karl Urban) this movie will stick with me for a while and I can’t wait to see it again. Maybe this time with kids.

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4: The Artist.

 

The older I’ve gotten, the more patient I’ve become. Which comes in handy when you’re watching a silent film. As a fan of the old Hollywood, I’ve wanted to see this film for a while. At the start, this movie is slow, and it takes a while to get into it. But once you do, it is a truly special experience. And I’m not just saying that to sound trendy or artsy (if I had wanted to sound that way, I would have watched it when it first came out.) The camera angles, the expressive looks, and the growing pains that Hollywood went through to adjust to talking pictures all make for great filmmaking. While rated Pg-13, this movie is fairly clean. There is a rude hand gesture, but truth be told, it got the rating for the depression, suicide attempt, and the historical smoking. And some cursing. While I disliked the score of the film at the beginning, you begin to enjoy  itif you turn up the volume (which sounds funny considering it’s a silent film) All in all, this is a well put together film and it is fun to see that there are still classy movies out there.

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5: Secret Life of Pets

 

Minions was a disappointment. Secret Life of Pets was a disappointment. Let’s hope Sing, and Despicable Me 3 hold up, because otherwise I’m starting to think Illumination Entertainment is losing its touch. Secret Life of Pets isn’t all bad. The concept of what do your pets do when you leave for the day has a nice twist on the Toy Story concept. Yet, it turns out what pets do while you’re away, is encounter vicious animals who are planning on killing humans. Yeah, not the greatest plot I’ve ever heard. The dark, violent tone doesn’t fit the ultra-bright colors. The beginning and the end, are what you except it to be. Exploring the stereotypes of pets, while bringing some funny twists. Also, I have to address a pet peeve (pun intended) of mine. If you open a movie with narration, END with narration. If the main character can introduce everyone to the story world, then they can give you a conclusion. Yet, despite these shortcomings, there are some good moments in the movie and I don’t regret watching it. Mainly because I have wanted to see this movie no matter what, so better to get it over with and satisfy my curiosity.

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6: Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd dimension.

 

While my family had Netflix, I decided to properly give Phineas and Ferb a try. While taking my science class, ten minute Phineas and Ferb episodes were great “brain-emptiers.” The wacky, show is a lot like Veggietales, but you know….without the morals and Bible lessons. After watching as many episodes as I could, I decided to watch the movie. There’s not much to talk about this one. It’s funny, drags in the middle, but has lots of callbacks to previous episodes and gave me some closure. Whether I needed it or not.

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7: Apostles of Comedy.

 

I love Christian comedy more than most people. In fact, if it weren’t for stage fright and a dislike for travel I would totally give it a try. But alas, I am content to watch and listen to Christian comedy instead. Writing this review is hard because I can’t think of how to write about this without criticizing Brad Stine. Ron Pearson and Jeff Allen are some of the best comedians in the business. And I found Anthony Griffin to be hilarious on stage, as well as heartbreaking off stage with his testimony. The only reason Apostles of Comedy is lower on this list is because Brad Stine is just not my cup of tea. I could go into detail, but let’s just say I didn’t laugh during any of his performances. If he was a secular comedian I would be more critical, but if he is called by God to do this work, then it is none of my business to criticize!

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8: The Public Enemy.

 

Curiosity killed the cat. Curiosity is also what led me to watch this James Cagney Gangster film. Made in 1931, this movie has not aged gracefully. It is also pre-code which means it is not the squeaky clean old movies that I usually watch. Most of the acting is either stagey, or over the top from the silent film era. The dialogue has some good moments and you can see the stereotypes being made as this film continues. But this is not a movie I recommend watching. And this is the movie I regret watching. There are plenty of other classics that are worth watching over this one.

 

So in conclusion I’m gonna add three movies to be considered for the best film I saw this year. Those movies are
Loving
           Galaxy Quest           Pete’s Dragon

 

Movies I’ve seen this month: February

 

First, let me just explain something about this idea to compile a list of the best movies I saw in 2017. I figured I would watch movies I had seen before, but they would be lower on the list. However, the top two movies of February are ones which I have seen before. Second, I want to let you in on a little secret of how I rate/review movies. There will be movies that are lower budget, or old, which will be higher than what you might expect. But I don’t just judge a movie by the quality. I judge it by three things: quality, content, and potential. Quality includes the acting, directing, editing, etc. Content is how much objectionable content is in the movie, and how much does it take away from the experience. And finally, potential. Potential, is based on the concept of the story. Whether I think they did the story justice, or if they pulled off what they were aiming for. So, with that in mind, let’s get to the movies.

 

1: Zootopia

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I had already seen Zootopia twice, so I was hesitant to watch it a third time. However, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. The movie just won the Oscar for best animated feature Sunday, almost a full year after it released. It grossed a BILLION dollars at the international box office. This movie has a story that grabs you from the beginning. In a time where I thought all talking animal movies were a thing of the past, Zootopia breathed in new life to the genre. Offering a fresh take on police profiling, prejudice, and racism, Zootopia found a way to explain tough mature themes in a way that kids could understand. I think it will go down in Cinematic history as a classic, and I can’t wait to see where they take the characters in the sequel. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a great take on seeing people for who they are, instead of stereotypes and assumptions. Speaking of movies that took on prejudice…

 

2: Gentleman’s Agreement        

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Once again, this is a movie I had seen before. Gentleman’s Agreement is about a reporter who is hired to write a series about Anti-Semitism. He comes up with the idea to pretend to be Jewish, and learns firsthand the kind of racism and hate that Jews experienced during post world war 2. It is sad to see that there is a new rise in Anti-Semitism and I think this movie could help a lot of people. It is a forgotten gem of a movie, with a great performance by Gregory Peck. As a former Homeschooler, I also enjoyed researching about some of the people who are referenced in this movie as Anti-Semites. One being a Gerald LK Smith. It was interesting to find out who he was, and that he was the one who founded the America First political party. A phrase which has been thrown around recently, though one which most people are unaware of where it came from, or what its roots are. As a Christian, I cannot understand how a fellow believer would be against God’s chosen people. Being a Christian also leads me to discuss the best movie I saw this month for the first time…

 

3: Christian Mingle

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So, this is a great example of potential. A Christian rom-com about an online dating service, must be pretty low on the scale of potential. But Corbin Bernsen, (who I loved as the Dad in Psych) wrote and directed it. I had previously seen Rust, a movie he also wrote and directed, so I knew he had talent. This movie was one of those movies where it didn’t try too hard. Let mne explain. Most Christian films that I have seen, try to be great melodramas that will heavily impact everyone who sees it. But Christian Mingle only tries to be a charming romantic comedy with a Christian message. Bernsen knows his limits, and he is comfortable with what he’s shooting for. The movie is charming, witty, and acted well enough to stand up against some Hollywood romantic comedies. After watching Leap Year in January, I couldn’t help but compare Christian Mingle with that movie. And it holds up.

 

4: Finding Dory

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Finding Dory was sadly an example of a wasted opportunity. Granted, Baby Dory was adorable enough to make the movie worthwhile. However, all I could think of while watching Dory, was that it felt like a Toy Story movie. (Don’t believe me? Check out this video.) The story was interesting, and held my interest, and the new angle of Dory’s forgetfulness was a welcome addition. The content was clean, and the story tugged at your heart, but there were parts that felt rushed, or mediocre scenes. The animation was breathtaking. The third act seemed unsteady, but I understand that they had changed the ending after the blackfish documentary made waves (pun intended) in the Sea World universe. So, while this movie was worth watching, it did not live up to it’s potential, or hype.

 

5: Minions

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Oh minions. Adorable, mischievous, and…crude. While they delight as scene stealers in the Despicable Me movies, their own movie was a big disappointment. And it’s in the category of content, that this one hits the mark. About 90% of this movie is great. But it’s that 10% of the movie which stays with you, and makes you wish they hadn’t done that. But because there is a lot of good scenes in this movie, it’s ranked higher than…

 

6: The Letters

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While this movie held my interest while watching it, I continue to like it less the more I think about it. As an Evangelical, I was interested in knowing more about Mother Theresa. The Letters is about her early work in India, and it’s honestly best when you think of it as a docudrama. There were so many instances where I thought “This would make a great movie!” forgetting I was watching an attempt to make a great movie. Mother Theresa was a Catholic nun, working in India, while Gandhi was fighting for India’s independence. She built a hospice in an old Hindu temple. And the title of this movie comes from letters she wrote to a priest, expressing severe depression and what she felt like as “abandonment from God.” The story was there, but the acting, budget, and script did not do the story justice. I think in the future a Mother Theresa miniseries could be quite compelling.

 

7: Babe: a pig in the city

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Let me start this one off by saying that growing up, Babe was one of my favorite movies. Talk about going beyond the potential of a movie. A live action movie about a talking pig who learns how to herd sheep? It is a ridiculous story, that went on to get 6 Oscar Nominations, including Best Picture. Likely one of the last of G rated movies to be nominated in that category. And it wasn’t until a few years ago, that I learned there was even a sequel to this movie. And now I know why. Halfway through this movie, I thought it was going to be one of my new favorite movies. But the quirkiness began to wear off. And by the time it was over, it felt like a gothic movie about talking animals, with a long and boring climax. The story had no clear direction, the comedy was traded for somber expressions from monkeys, and the rural charm of the original was nowhere to be seen. This is a movie I wish I hadn’t seen.

 

So, that concludes the month of February. For the list of greatest movies, I’ve seen at the end of this year, I am adding from this month CHRISTIAN MINGLE and FINDING DORY.

 

What did you see this month?

 

Movies I’ve seen this Month: January

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write down every single movie I watched that year. Sort it by month, rank them, and then at the end of the year compile a list of my favorites. During January, my family was snowed in. We watched the movies that we got for Christmas, but soon we had run out of those, and no one felt good enough to venture out to rent something. And that is when Netflix’s free 30-day trail came in handy. Some of these on this list are not movies per se. There is a 90 minute TV episode and a stand up special, but this is my blog, and under my definition, they count. So, as we head into February, here are the eleven movies I watched in January.

1.     The Little Prince.

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This little gem of a movie really made my day. Half of the story is told in gorgeous stop motion animation, while the other is CGI. It is a touching, heartfelt tale about a young girl’s friendship with an eccentric elderly neighbor who teaches her the value of childhood before she grows up too fast. This story reminded me of the themes in the classic Peter Pan tale. However, in this movie the elderly man tells the girl that growing up isn’t the problem. “Forgetting is.” I loved the concept of that, as I have personally seen childhood friends want to forget about their adolescence. The quality of this movie holds up well to Pixar’s sub-par movies. Fair warning to parents: this movie deals with children coping with the possibility of someone dying. And that is where this movie adds depth which I did not expect. It made me think my Great Grandma who died when I was young. It made me think of Mr. Mackenzie, an AWANA leader who died of lung cancer in my last year in Truth and Training. I could go on and on about this movie, but the point is, if you have Netflix, watch it.  

2.     The Jungle book.

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Coming in at number two, is Jungle Book. While I had seen it earlier last year, my Brother and Dad had not. The Jungle Book is one of those movies where you see the trailer, and immediately have high expectations for it. From the get go this movie looked amazing. But it had to be more than just visually stunning. It had to have story. And that is where I think they outdid themselves. To take Rudyard Kipling’s nonsensical short story musings, and weave them together to make a three-act plot about Mowgli’s place in the world is something to applaud. The balance of fun, upbeat jazzy throwbacks to the animation movie, as well as the Shakespearean characters of the animals was everything you always wanted it to be. This movie delivered, end of discussion, move on to the next.  

3.     Sherlock: The Six Thatcher’s.

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Yes, I know it’s not a movie. But it feels like one. Sherlock Season 4 returned with all the dazzle and sparkle that had made me a fan from the beginning. And even though the second episode of this season was awful, and so demented that I stopped watching it, The Six Thatcher’s made me fall in love again with the whole idea. It was fun to see Sherlock and John back to doing what they do best, with Moriarty in the far background, looming over every evil deed. The plot was creative, well adapted from the original story, and gave John and Mary a great adventure together. Yes, it was violent and shocking, but the story was one worth watching.

4.     True Memoirs of an International Assassin.

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Speaking of violent…True Memoirs of an International Assassin. This was the second Netflix movie I wanted to see while my family had the free trial (the other being the “Little Prince”.) This Kevin James vehicle was a change from his recent formula of family friendly comedies. And while there was no boundary pushing innuendoes, the violence of this movie was shocking for a comedy. Most of the reviews I can find online agree that there were about 7-8 too many head shots. Besides that, the film was a great adventure filled with a lot of humor and Kevin James doing what he does best. My favorite parts of this movie were easily the sequences where Kevin James is trying to write the ending to his novel. It even inspired me to resurrect my own novel and look over some chapters before my class started. In the end, if this movie had been less violent and just a little more character development from the female lead, I think this would have been higher on the list. But hey, kudos for not making the young female character fall for the inept Kevin James character. Even if the audience does.

5.     Mullets on fire: Bob Smiley stand up special.

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I have known about Christian Comedian Bob Smiley for years. I used to read the “Adventures of Average Boy” in a Christian magazine for kids. Then a few years later, I saw him on a Bananas special and I’ve been a fan ever since. This was one of the DVD’s that I asked for Christmas, and Mr. Smiley once again brought laughter to our family room. It was nice to see him back at it, though the jokes about his wife were sad, considering their situation. But if you haven’t seen Bob Smiley yet, check him out. He’s random, lots of throw away jokes and really packs a lot of heart behind his message.

6.     Robin and the 7 Hoods.

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A classic gangster musical comedy, (yes, it’s a thing) this movie has a lot of laughs. The big scene stealers in this rat pack movie being Bing Crosby in a rare moment where he was not the laid-back crooner. Instead, Crosby is an insecure, vocabulary spouting man who turns Frank Sinatra’s mobster character into a modern “Robin Hood.” Peter Falk kills it as the villain, being equal parts intimidating and hysterically sarcastic. This movie is a little on the long side, but it has some great characters, and a fun style. Plus a musical number by Sammy Davis Jr. about the glorious sound of gunfire. In my opinion it is just a step above…

7.     Ocean’s eleven (Original version.)

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Is it better than George Clooney’s version? Probably not. But it is cleaner, and more family friendly. The plot also seems to be less far-fetched and achievable since security wasn’t as good as it was by the time Clooney ‘s remake rolled around. This movie is a forget-about-your-cares kind of movie with some great sarcastic one liners, Dean Martin being his usual cool self, and a surprise ending. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it. Personally, I’ve seen it twice. But some movies are worth watching more than once. Cue the next movie…

8.     Sahara.

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Sahara is one of my favorite movies. It is an adventure film with a fantastic plot, lovable characters, and just enough content restraint to get a thumbs up from me. Steve Zahn is clearly the bright spot in this movie, stealing basically every scene he is in. But there is something slick, and neat about this picture. The woman is not objectified. On the contrary, she is a smart doctor who is trying to stop a plague. In fact, Matthew McConaughey is almost the character who is just along for the ride. In his usual laid back attitude as Dirk Pitt, McConaughey is a worthy lead to the movie. There is self-sacrifice, bonds of friendship, a want to rid the world of evil, and a in-your-face American attitude that is just plain fun. It is a movie I have seen multiple times and will likely watch again in the future. Unlike the next movie on this list….

9.     Iron man.

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I don’t know if it is because I had seen it before, or if I wasn’t feeling well, but Iron Man just didn’t work for me as much this time around. I still liked the characters, and the pace is great, but this movie seems to lose its luster after a while. I think one thing to point out is that Marvel Studios has just gotten better at making movies. One major thing I noticed is how this movie seems old already. From the flip phones, to a boom box in the Humvee, it is surprising to see how the world has changed since Iron Man first saved the world.

10.  Leap Year.

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Let me just say that Rom-Coms are not my favorite type of movie. Except for the classics of the 1930s and 40s I usually steer clear from them. But Leap Year got my attention for a couple reasons. It was rated Pg, it had Amy Adams in it, and I wasn’t feeling good enough for an intense movie. Some things really worked for Leap Year. The premise was lighthearted and funny. The locations were amazing and beautiful and for the most part, the accents didn’t sound fakey. But some things did not work for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Matthew Goode knock it out of the park as the smooth villain Mr. Wickham on “Death comes to Pemberley”, and as Mary’s second husband on the last season of Downton Abbey, but for whatever reason, Matthew Goode’s performance on Leap Year was…unimpressive. He was obnoxious, his backstory wasn’t sad enough. Amy Adams never really proposes, despite that being the premise. All in all, it wasn’t a bad film. The best part being Amy Adams puking just when you think there is going to be a cliché kiss. And finally, …

11.  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

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This is a movie that is very dear to my heart. My friends and I went to see it in the cheap theaters and we all had a blast. This movie is random, absolutely silly and almost void of anything deep or meaningful. It is a great “Sick” movie (one of those movies that you watch when you’re sick.) Never the less, there are parts of this movie that still bring a smile to my face and I think that’s what the filmmakers were going for.

So, in conclusion. I will be picking a few of these movies to go forward to be put in a “best movies I saw in 2017” list. I’ll do the same for February, and so on. The movies I am picking this month are:

The Little Prince

True Memoirs of an International Assassin.

So what movies did you watch in January?