Tag: films

Friday Five: Instrumentals and Nanowrimo Update

Hi guys!  I hope you are all having a great start of Fall (or at least that’s what it feels like here in Utah with things getting very crisp and cold this week).  I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo so that’s why I haven’t posted on this blog this week.  My apologies for that but doing best I can.  My  novel is coming along pretty well.  I am ahead of the game as far as word count which makes me feel good because I don’t know how much I will be able to write this weekend with stuff going on.

wpid-snapchat-100529400831000105.jpgSo far I feel like the book has done a lot of describing things and not quite enough character development so that is something I need to work on but I am able to get my daily word count in and sometimes more which is what is most important to me. I really like the lead character I’ve created and feel a little bad for the mess that is about to happen in her life.  Poor fictional characters and their hard life! 😉

How are you guys doing with NaNoWriMo?  How are your novels coming along?


This is Friday so it also means it is time for the Friday Five!  This weeks topic is all about instrumentals and being a movie fan of course I had to include mostly scores as my choices but I love the 5 songs I picked.

What are instrumentals that you like?  What scores from movies are your favorite?  Put in the comments section and if you like the video I would love if you gave it a thumbs up.  Thanks!


Family Movie Night Update

Hey everyone!  I just wanted to put a little reminder about my new column over at ldsblogs.com.  I just had posted my 6th piece on Curious George.  It would really help me out if you went on the site and left some comments on the articles.  Please, please, please

Here is a link to each article.

The articles include both my video and a print review that goes into more depth.  I have tried to do a variety of films that will hopefully appeal to a mixture of families.  I would love some feedback from you on the type of films I should review in the future.  The only rule is it has to be a film available on Netflix Stream, as that is the main premise of the column.  If you watch any of them with your family I would love to know how it goes.

So far I have reviewed (I will include links to the column and the video review if you just want to watch those.)

Column 1- Disney’s Holes

Column 2- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Column 3- Anastasia

Column 4- An Extremely Goofy Movie

Column 5- The Boxtrolls

I have been working on learning to use Adobe Premiere software and it is tough.  Curious George was my first video with that software.

Column 6- Curious George

Next week’s pick will be the Rodger and Hammerstein musical State Fair.  Here’s the video (I am a week ahead on the channel to give me time to write for the column).

This is the best video I have done with Adobe Premiere.  I’m kind of proud of it

Epic Disney Tag

epic disney tag2

I just thought I would share this video I made.  It took a lot of work so please check it out and share it if you enjoy it.  I started with this thing called the ‘Disney TAG’ which has been going around youtube.

Then I figured if I was going there I would add more questions, make it a full look at Disney and what I like and don’t enjoy as much.  I would love to hear your thoughts and what you would pick for the questions.

Here are the questions:

1. A scene in any Disney movie you wish you could experience
2. An unforgettable experience you’ve had at the parks
3. What non-Disney song reminds you or brings back memories of Disney and or the parks?
4. When was the first time you went to a Disney park?
5. If you could choose any of the characters to be your best friend who would you choose?
6. Who is your favorite Disney princess?
7. Name a scene/moment in any Disney movie that never fails to make you cry?
8. What is your favorite Disney movie?
9. Overrated Disney?
10. Underrated Disney?
11. Favorite Disney song?
12.   Least Favorite Disney?
13. Most Memorable Disney villain?
14. Favorite classic Disney/ favorite modern Disney?
15. Favorite Disney score?
16. Favorite live action
17.   Didn’t like as kid, like now
18. Favorite Studio Ghibli

epic disney tag

Because of the rules of youtube I couldn’t put in my favorite songs but here they are:

If you haven’t seen it in a while listen to Hans Zimmer’s amazing score for the Lion King

Austenland: A Review

austenlandI know I am about a year and half late on this review but I put off seeing Austenland because I hated the book so the movie didn’t hold much promise for me.  However, enough of my friends and family encouraged me to see it, and claimed it was better than the book, I finally decided to watch it on my Netflix.

And the verdict is….

Basically the same as the book but I didn’t have to live in the movie for days so I suppose the movie is more tolerable.

So some things to mention before the review- I am a huge Austen fan.  I read her 4 most popular books in the winter break of 1998 and was hooked.  Since then I have read all 4 and even all 6 every year usually in the summer.  They are witty and the heroines are bold and yet weak.  Of course, I love the romance but it is the characters journey as told through romance that works.  The romance itself is fairly predictable.

That’s where this book and movie are misguided.  Austen’s stories are not great because they are romantic.  They are great because they involve choices, judgements, forgiveness, foolishness and of course love.  In the story of Austenland we lose all but the love and it makes for a very unsatisfying story.

The story of Austenland starts out with an interesting lead character.  Jane, played by Kerri Russell, is a die hard Austen fan.  This could be the female version of the many ‘manchild’ movies we’ve seen with men who can’t grow up (usually with Will Farrell or Seth Rogan).  I would be interested to see more movies with these type of women.

Austenland was also directed, written, and produced almost entirely by women, which I think is great.  In the words of Cate Blanchett ‘the world has curves’ and movies should reflect this.  The fact that so many movies fail something as basic as the Bechtel test is very sad indeed. We should do better.

That said, I am not going to give it a pass merely because of it’s female pedigree. That would be unfair.  I have to judge it like any other movie.

So, back to the story… Jane gets an inheritance and decides to fulfill her life dream and go to a living play experience called Austenland.  It is similar to the murder mystery parties that were popular about 10 years ago but over a few weeks.  All of the staff are actors playing parts down to the servants.

Jennifer Coolidge gets some of the funniest bits as a ditzy American guest (she has played this role many times before with funnier dialogue. See the Christopher Guest movies).  But even her lines feel so strained and molded into this ridiculous premise.  Whether in the book or movie I couldn’t buy this place existing and appealing to anyone, even the most die hard of Austen fans.

However, even if you accept the premise, so many of the jokes fall flat. For example, there is an extended scene with a play that I didn’t think was funny.  There are pratfalls and falls on horses that weren’t funny.  And a horse giving birth scene, which would have you believe a foal comes out in the time it takes a woman to grab a handful of hay or at least that Jane believes such a thing. Really, Jane?

Then things became awkward when a member of the ‘cast’ assaults Jane and yet she continues on with her stay.  Did she just think that was part of the play?  A little regency era attempted rape to complete your stay….Like I said it went from unfunny, to uncomfortable, to even a little creepy.

You also see the behind the scenes of the actors which makes the scenes in costume feel even weirder.   And yet with all that they tag on the most unbelievable ending.  Like I said earlier, Austen’s romances worked because of choices the characters make, tough choices.  They are often brave and loyal to a fault.  The characters that are impetuous, romantic and silly, are all either taught to be more sensible or are unhappy in their choices (Lydia, Marianne, Mary Musgrove, Catherine and even Emma).

Aside from coming to the park and then leaving, Jane in Austenland, doesn’t really make any tough choices.  Everything happens to her not by her, making the story less gripping. There is not the sense of a character growing and the viewer isn’t left wondering ‘will Jane’s foibles spoil her chance at real love?’.

Austen’s heroines do not need rescue, and they would not have had dramatic romcom scenes at airports.  Maybe a letter perhaps (or lengthy email). but I can’t think of any bold romantic gestures in any Austen book.  Perhaps Darcy fixing Lydia’s problem but even that expected no fanfare. and he didn’t even want Lizzy to know of his involvement.  Such soft and subtle characters build tension and makes the endings so satisfying.  They are not simply wild passionate love but the careful consideration of two hearts meant to be together, that almost weren’t.

The couple in Austenland don’t spend much time together, and they have even less actual conversations (and a lot of that is staged for a long time or we don’t know how much is staged by either one).  The ending would have been a lot more satisfying if she had sued the place and changed her life (actually learned something…).

In the end, it just didn’t make me laugh.  A big problem in a comedy.  I think I’ll go watch Mr Collins propose.  Now that is funny…

Overall Grade D

Content Grade B+ (It’s pretty innocent.  Even the assault is tame, birth tame, some heaving bosoms, no bad language)

I’m always open for others opinions.  Don’t worry I have thick skin, so please comment.

If you want a more satisfying, if still imperfect, modern version of women confronting Jane Austen try The Jane Austen Book Club.

2013 Movie Scorecard

This is way late but I wanted to see all the big 2013 movies and it took me a while.  There are still a bunch I’m missing including Star Trek: Into Darkness, Philomena and Her.  I figure I have to draw the line somewhere or it will never be posted.  I would like to do a video to accompany this post but we will see.

I have rated each film a clean content grade and an overall grade.  D is adults only, C is mature content, B is a few scenes of concern, A is appropriate for whole family.

Some of the movies are bold and that is because they are hyperlinked to my full reviews on those films.  I am as slow seeing movies this year as I was last.  Only seen Lego movie so far…

What movies did you like in 2013 and what do you think of my grades?

12 Years a Slave-

A tough but profound movie.  Focuses on the life of Solomon Northup who was enslaved as a free man and Patsy, a female slave he comes to know. A small movie that is worth seeing.  A bit too many masters but Michael Fasbender is so evil as the main master, a true psychopath.  Very few characters are introduced to us.

Clean Content D      Overall Grade A

Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett is mesmerizing as a socialite dethroned and forced to live with her middle class sister.  It is the type of movie that is a day in the life of a character.  Not a ton of plot but I was fascinated getting to know this character.

Clean Content C      Overall Grade B+

The Book Thief

This was a tough one as the book is one of my favorites.  I have long said it is an unfilmable novel. They had all the pieces but none of the magic.  Characters I loved were featured too briefly like Rudy and even Death as the narrator.

Clean Content A     Overall Grade C-

Monsters University

A charming, if unmemorable offering from Pixar.  I liked the message of achieving your dreams by not achieving your dreams.  That is a unique message for a children’s film.  Good voice performances and very heartfelt.

Clean Content A     Overall Grade B

Despicable Me 2

I honestly don’t get the popularity of this series.  The minions are cute but I find the rest of the clan and the story to be very boring.  I kind of wish Megamind would have been the 2010 anti-hero cartoon movie to be the big hit.

Clean Content A    Overall Grade C-

Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Once Smaug actually appears it gets exciting.  The special effects in those scenes are very well done but it takes 2 hours to get there.  I was bored most of the movie and I actually liked the first one.  I wish Jackson would forget the CGI backgrounds and give us New Zealand like he did in LOTR.  A lot of the movie looked cheap and I thought Evangaline Lilly was really bad and wooden in her scenes.  Rest of cast was good.

Clean Content B- (violence)     Overall Grade C-

Saving Mr Banks

One of the best movies about artists and an artists work I’ve ever seen.  Thompson and Hanks are both so good and nuanced in their iconic roles.  Colin Farrell is also very good as PL Travers father.  I loved the message of we all have a moment where we are no longer a child and we all secretly resent whoever gives us that moment.  People like Disney try to recreate childhood.  People like Traverse shun it.

Clean Content A-          Overall Grade A+


I said it was a masterpiece when it came out and I still feel that way.  I was totally immersed in the experience of seeing the movie.  I felt like I was in space and it was so well edited.  As soon as you took a breath, bam!  The next event happened and then again.  There was no time to say ‘wait a minute…’ I thought Sandra Bullock was so good.  To think she did all of that in front of a green screen is amazing.

Clean Content B-          Overall Grade A+


I said on my review on this blog I had high expectations going into this film and it met those high expectations.  I loved the strong female leads.  I loved the consistently strong music.  I loved the artistry and just enough humor.

Clean Content A+         Overall Grade A+

Captain Phillips

I saw Gravity and Captain Phillips in the same week.  Most intense week of my life!  Tom Hanks had an amazing 2013 and he is very good in this.  I liked that it wasn’t a heroic performance.  It was a just a man who’s boat was taken over by pirates.

The way Paul Greengrass shot it made it feel like me as the viewer was a crew-member experiencing everything along with Hanks and everything else.  I liked that the pirates were fully dimensional. It’s a little slow in spots, a little long but I was absorbed.

Clean Content C         Overall Grade A

Enough Said

A little gem.  In the death of romantic comedies of late this was so refreshing.  Julia Louise Dryfus and James Gandolfini (in his final role) are wonderful and have great chemistry as a mature couple falling in love.  She is a massage therapist and his ex-wife becomes a client.  Not knowing Dryfus is dating her ex the client tells all kinds of bad things about Gandolfini.

It does have the liar reveal story trope but I think it works because of the charm of the performances and the good writing.

Clean Content C+        Overall Grade A

Man of Steel

I honestly don’t have much positive to say about this movie.  I thought it was dark, moping, and strangely gruesome.  I didn’t like all the CGI.  The violence and destruction of Metropolis was extreme.  I don’t want to see Superman plow through building after building without any regard to the carnage and then snap an admittedly bad man in the neck.  The product placement was obnoxious and took me out of the movie several times.

I also don’t want to see Krypton as a murky CGI land.  I hated the flashback structure and all the Christ metaphors which didn’t make sense given the advice of the father to let the people die rather than save them. Louis Lane was a bore and I didn’t think Henry Cavill was particularly charismatic as Superman.

How about the next movie you have a little bit of fun with Superman?

Clean Content  D           Overall Grade  F

American Hustle

A movie all style and good acting over substance.  All the performances are good but honestly I have a hard time even remembering the story a few months after watching it.

It’s set in the 70s.  Bradley Cooper is investigating a crook played by Christian Bale who is married to Jennifer Lawrence and seeing Amy Adams.  They become double agents and take a bunch of public figures down.  I was kind of disappointed.   If you love 70s style than you’ll love this.

Clean Content D          Overall Grade C


Likable cast but Tina Fey continues to not be funny to me. Sorry…even 30 Rock not a fan of.  This movie is an attempt at a romantic comedy and even in the dearth of rom coms this does not pass.

Fey plays an admissions officer at Princeton who comes in contact with Paul Rudd who runs an alternative high school.  This is kind of like The Book Thief in that all the pieces are there but none of the magic.  It just wasn’t funny.

Clean Content C-         Overall Grade F

Oz the Great and Powerful

This movie just offends me and I hate the fairy tale retelling trend.  All of them have been terrible. I’m so sick of brooding fantasy flicks.  Frozen remembered that fairy tales were supposed to be fun.  If I see another battle and brooding heroine I think I will scream. Stop ruining my fairy tales!

It’s tough because Wizard of Oz is one of my favorites and Over the Rainbow is my favorite song.  The original had magic and this has 3 shrill female performances and a boring male performance.  There is effort into the styling of the movie but I would take old school cheese over CGI grandeur any day.  Mostly this movie was boring and James Franco and Mila Kunis were remarkably wooden and bad in their acting.  Not a fan!

Clean Content B        Overall Grade D

Before Midnight

Jesse and Celine’s story from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset continues but this time they have an established relationship with 2 girls.  These movies always take place over the course of a day in a foreign city and this time it is Greece.

It is beautifully shot and the dialogue is so believable.  You feel like you are watching a real couple interacting and dealing with conflict.  That said, it is kind of the problem with this movie. At times the arguing can go from compelling to unpleasant. I felt like I was sitting in a couple therapy session and who wants to do that?

It also has an extended scene with Celine changing shirts while arguing and a lot of profanity (as in the previous films).  The ending is very satisfying and I like the exploration of some darker elements to a couple we’ve come to know so well but it took it a little too far for my taste.

Clean Content D-        Overall Grade C

How to be Mormon and like Movies


So clearly you are all aware that I love movies. I know a lot of you could live without them and prefer reading but I like both and I’ll tell you why.

Reading is like the cross country race of storytelling.  You really dive into the characters and setting for weeks, sometimes months.  There’s a real dedication to a book; whereas, a movie is 2 hours with people and their stories.  There are a lot of people I don’t mind spending 2 hours with that I wouldn’t want to have hanging around me for 2 weeks.  It’s a different standard.

Also, a book you have an experience colored from 2 perspectives- your own and the author (or protagonist).  A movie has so many different voices all involved in making the story happen.  You have a director, cinematographer, actor, writer etc- all bringing something different to create the story and art.

Television is like an in-between of movies and books because you live with the characters but are still getting the varied perspective.

So, if you want to understand our culture and people I think it is important to be well-versed in all 3 storytelling mediums (and music as well but that is less primarily a storytelling device) .

However, this desire can create a problem for some that are like me and want to watch compelling stories, but do not want to sully our standards and faith.  We want to see better than the made-for-Christian variety of entertainment, but don’t want to verge too close to the morality cliff.

It invites the question- how can you be a Christian (or Mormon in my case) and like movies?

First, there is a great article in the Ensign (church magazine) by Academy Award winning director Keith Merrill where he gives a much more thorough answer to this question than I could give.  I recommend reading it. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/04/i-have-a-question

He starts off by talking about the rating  system.  How it is decided, what content makes an R, PG, G, X (this was before PG-13).  He says:

“How then, does one select appropriate film entertainment? A more efficient rating system would help, but it would still fail.. Ultimately, there is no rating system that will satisfy every person’s individual standards.

Your personal individual standards.

In another section of the church website we are told:

“Like other forms of media, movies and television can offer much that is informative, uplifting, and appropriately entertaining. However, many movies and television programs can be spiritually damaging as inappropriate behaviors and viewpoints are depicted as normal”

So, the brethren tell us that movies can be entertaining and informative and uplifting (doesn’t have to be all 3).  It is up to us to decide what is spiritually damaging.

Keith Merrill tells us how to make these choices:

“It remains for each of us to sort through word-of-mouth reports, media reviews, publicity, and then compare what we find with our own conscience. The only reliable standards are the ones we set for ourselves, guided by our quest for perfection and inspired by the principles of the gospel”

Setting a standard for ourselves and sticking to it can be difficult but I’ve learned that it is worth the effort.  If I want to be confident in making wise media choices, I must analyze all the factors, and not rely on any one vetting option.  For example, some people say absolutely No R rated movies and that is fine for them, but I think it could give a false confidence in the non-R movies making their research less diligent.

My personal standards for entertainment have been developed since I was in high school, and I did make some mistakes along the way. However, as a whole I have been able to enjoy movies and being a movie fan, without endangering my worthiness.

Here’s what I’ve learned

Rachel’s Personal Standard-

1. Screen-it.-

I believe in using the resources we have available and for only $25 a year a membership at http://www.screenit.com will tell you briefly or an insane amount of detail anything in the movie you might find offensive or disturbing.  They put stuff on there that I don’t know if anyone finds offensive like if a baby spits up.  If you don’t want to be spoiled but want a basic idea they have a content summary and a suggested audience for all new movies and many older films.  Screen-it is my first step in deciding to see a movie.

2. Reviews-

Watch a few critics.  Find someone you trust and get a feel for the type of content they recommend.  This will give you a general idea if they love edgy movies those probably are one’s to stay away from.  If they say something is violent than I would avoid it.  Most critics are not Christian based but they still give clues to the values in a movie and if there is anything particularly disturbing.

Check out friend of the blog Forest Hartman’s great DVD blog. http://foresthartman.com/

If you follow a critic on twitter or other social media ask them about the movie and they may respond.  Couldn’t hurt.  I actually did that with 12 Years a Slave.  I asked several critics if I should see it including Forest. .

There are also lots of parents review sites like the Popcorn Parents http://www.chesapeakefamily.com/blog/movies-a-dvds

3. Ask Friends and Family-

Gather some word of mouth about the movie.  Ask people you trust to spill the beans on content.  This can help you understand context and tone, which plays a lot into the offensiveness of an item.  If someone is about to get shot in a WWII movie perhaps language isn’t as shocking as someone who stubs their toe.

One of the hardest movies for me to gauge recently was 12 Years a Slave.  The critics actually freaked me out because they talked about how violent it was.  Screen-it didn’t really help me because a lack of context to the list of events.  I kept hoping that one of my friends would see it and let me know but none of them did.  I finally decided I needed to take the bullet and see it and I’m glad I did.

4. Learn Your Movie Weaknesses-

I’ve made 4 bad movie decisions in my life that taught me a lot.  The first was in 2001.  Everyone was talking about Moulin Rouge and being a musical lover I was very tempted.  I still love the music, but I knew the story was explicit.  It was back at a time when I believed in the rating system so I rationalized watching it was ok because it was PG-13.  (stupid).

The first time I saw it I was kind of bowled over.  It was unlike any film I had ever seen, and I was very excited.  So much so that I ignored all of the offensive content and just focused on the bright colors and music.  A friend of mine had been debating about going and I sold her on it (ie why word of mouth can be wrong!).  We went, and with her as my guest, I noticed every offense.

I was so embarrassed I had brought my friend to this movie with horrible content.  She was upset with me and rightly so.  Lesson learned. I know my weakness is music.  I will put up with a lot for great music so I am exceptionally careful when it comes to the modern musical and honestly most have failed my test.  I enjoyed Hairspray but most I chose to not see.

5. Trust Your Gut-

My second bad movie decision was in 2008.  I knew I would regret seeing the Dark Knight.  I knew it was violent and dark and that the Joker was an all too convincing villain.  My gut told me to avoid the movie as violence sticks in my head for weeks.  Other people it doesn’t seem to bother them but  I can see a preview for a Lifetime movie on a killer and it give me the creeps for weeks.

But everyone I knew LOVED the Dark Knight.  Even my father had seen it, and he never goes to the movies.  My younger siblings saw it, and they liked it.  All of my friends prodded and pushed me to see it.   They didn’t mean to challenge my beliefs, but they had enjoyed it, and wanted me to have the same exciting experience.  I totally get that.

Finally after about 6 months I gave in and watched it.  I regretted it then and still do now.  It was too violent.  The imagery was too ghastly and evil.  I didn’t have a good spirit while watching it and I didn’t feel right. You can say it is a ridiculous and pathetic reaction but that was how I felt (again personal standards here).  It was just an incredibly unpleasant experience, and I wish I could remove those images from my mind. I shouldn’t have finished it but at the point where the Joker puts the pencil through the guys face I needed some kind of redemption or it would haunt me even worse.

It was a huge mistake, and I will never make it again.

6. Walk Out-

I’ve only walked out of 2 movies in my life.  The first was Drop Dead Gorgeous, which you guys know is my most hated movie ever.  It is cold, disgusting and repulsive.  It actually made me cry I was so disturbed by it.  You can read more details about it’s depravity here (don’t watch it) http://smilingldsgirl.com/2014/01/31/best-and-worst/

It’s just so sick in its view of human nature and femininity and everything else.  I was on a date when I went, and I left my date and friends in the theater and went into the lobby and cried.  It wasn’t even worth staying around for a cute boy! That’s saying something! 🙂

The other movie I walked out on is called Superstar, and I only lasted about 10 minutes.  There was a scene where an actor was clearly trying to portray a Jesus character and it was so offensive I couldn’t tolerate it.

That’s another piece of advice- have your line in the sand and then stick with it.  My line is I will not watch anything that openly mocks Jesus.  That is too far.

So, that’s the movies I have walked out. of.  Both were stupid to even start watching but it was at the $1 theater before I had my system in place.  These days most bad movies I am kept away from by the critics (reason I could never actually be a critic).

7. Offensive or Mature-

Slumdog Millionaire was a real game-changer for me  It was a mature movie with some graphic things happening to children and characters but none of it was offensive or gratuitous .  It all felt like part of the story.  There are lots of things that I don’t want anyone under 17 to see without another adult present.  It’s mature content but I don’t think it is offensive.

Schindler’s List was a mature film and the behaviors depicted were at times offensive, but I was not offended by the movie.  That’s the blurry line best determined by word of mouth.  If you are lucky enough to have friends who have seen a movie pick their brain to see if it is mature or offensive.  Most of the time this applies to dramas as most offensive comedy is just offensive but still worth determining.

8. It is Worth It-

Some might say ‘why bother’?  It’s too much risk for entertainment.  Others simply don’t care about movies and that’s fine.  For those of us that like the medium of story telling through movies I say it is worth it. I can honestly say that my life would be less colorful and beautiful if I did not have movies in it.

If I said ‘that’s it I’m never seeing another movie again’ than I would miss going to space with Gravity, or recovering from a Tsunami in The Impossible, or see an amazing love story in Silver Linings Playbook.  I wouldn’t have reminisced about my high school years with Perks of Being a Wallflower or basically had my life narrated by endless Nora Ephron quotes.  All of that would be gone and I would be sad.

That doesn’t even count the artistry and beauty I’ve seen like in The Artist or 500 Days of Summer.  The lives I’ve gotten to dive into like The Descendants or Friends with Kids. Not too mention the total fantasy words you can enter that are much more vividly portrayed than anything I could conjure up (not the greatest imagination for worlds).

My life would be less vibrant without movies so I have my personal standards and they allow me to enjoy responsibly.

9. You Won’t See Everything-

I always have to remind myself there are some films I’m not going to be able to see.  The personal standards I’ve developed won’t allow it.  It can be tempting when everyone is raving and the performances look good but don’t give in.  In that case, it isn’t worth it.  Your standards are more important than entertainment.  When you get to the judgement day you aren’t going to be able to say ‘well, it was nominated for an Oscar’…

A great example of this for me is Martin Scorsese.  I have only seen one of his movies, Hugo.  All of his other movies are loaded with profanity, so much so, I can’t justify a viewing.  Others can, that’s fine. No judgement from me. Like I said earlier it’s a personal decision.  (You might recall his recent Wolf of Wall Street had 508 f words.  )

I have the same problem with Tarantino.  I’ve never seen his movies because the language and violence is too much.  They look intriguing and sometimes I am tempted, but no I can’t do it.

Like I said, everyone has to decide what they feel comfortable with and then stick to it.

What are your feelings on content and the movies?  What strategies do you use?  What personal standard have you developed?  What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?  The best?  Do you think movies are important to see?



Watch the Movie: Adaptations, Remakes and Reboots that Work

2fe22bd348dbc1ca7c22620320de-is-a-good-book-better-than-a-good-moviebut maybe not always…

So you often hear the adage ‘the book is better’ in regards to a movie or TV show based on a popular novel.  However, there are some rare exceptions where the film actually improves upon the original source material.

For example, most people I know feel the Godfather movies are better than the book.  I have never read the book so I can’t say one way or another but I’ve never heard anyone argue for the book over the movie.

When I mentioned this topic on facebook a lot of people said comic book movies such as Man of Steel and Thor are better than the comic books.  Unfortunately I have never read a comic book.  I know.  I should be ashamed of myself but it’s true.

So here goes…

1. Batman Begins- I haven’t read the comic books but after the annihilation of Batman and Robin in the 90s there is no denying this reboot of the series was a significant step up.

While all my readers probably know I found The Dark Knight too violent for my taste I can’t deny it is well made and acted.  Batman Begins is equally well done but is a little less intense so I enjoyed it more.

2. Princess Bride- This is the clearest example of an adaptation that improves upon the original book.  In the book the author interrupts the story with ‘witty asides’ I found very annoying.  A little of that happens in the movie with the kid and the grandpa but it is way more palatable and less used story-telling device in the movie.

Everything else is pretty much the same but I would still take the movie over the book.

3. Sabrina- It goes without saying that I love the Audrey Hepburn 1954 version of this romance.  However, Audrey feels very young and Humphrey Bogart seems very old so their interactions are a little awkward.  It’s hard to get into the romance when he seems like her father.

I don’t know how much older Harrison Ford is than Julia Ormond in the 95 version,  but she doesn’t seem that much younger.  The cast surrounding the couple is also very strong with Greg Kinnear perfect as the playboy brother with Nancy Merchant and John Wood as Ford and Ormond’s mother and father respectively.

It is also another movie about work and whether we work to live or live to work.  You will probably remember that is a favorite topic of mine.

The movie will make you want to go to Paris and walk on bridges reading poetry.  It’s so magical.  I can’t think of a remake that is better done.  Can you?

4. You’ve Got Mail- This is tough because I love the Jimmy Stewart original about 2 coworkers who hate each other but don’t know they are secretly in love as pen pals.  In the 90s version we get Nora Ephron’s divine writing and it all updated to email.

I really think I could watch both of these movies back to back for 2 days without stopping and not tire of them.  I just love the story.  There are so many great lines.  The chemistry is wonderful and it is 2 more movies that are about work.

5. The Hobbit (haven’t seen 2nd yet)-  I know the first hobbit movie had it’s problems, but I think it is much better than the book.  I did not enjoy reading The Hobbit.  It is so slow.  I could use it as an insomnia cure.  At leas The Lord of the Rings books a lot happens.  The Hobbit is just small people camping for days.

It probably doesn’t hurt that the movie has Richard Armitage who I am in love with even as a dwarf.

6. Les Miserables- Victor Hugo’s book about dissidents in the 1830s France is widely considered a masterpiece but I’ll be honest I have never been able to get through it.  It is so slow and I like Middlemarch which is really slow so that is saying something.

I know people have problems with the recent movie but I loved it.  I love the stage musical even more.  When I saw it at 14 in NYC it was the first time that music really spoke to me.  Several characters that are side notes in the novel are really fleshed out in the play.  My favorite character Eponine is hardly in the novel.

On My Own and I Dreamed a Dream never fail to move me no matter how poorly performed.  I can be at some terrible recital and I still get goosebumps when someone sings them. I just love the musical so much.

7. Father of the Bride- This remake of the Spencer Tracy/Elizabeth Taylor comedy isn’t perfect but I have an affection for it.

If only for this scene it is better than the original.

8. Where the Wild Things Are- I did a whole post on defending this movie


I love it.  Love the artistry and the depiction of the thoughtful, brooding side of childhood.  It was one of the boldest, most inventive movie I’ve ever seen.

9. Perks of Being a Wallflower-  I think there is something to be said for watching a movie before reading the book. You usually have a more pleasant experience at the movie (and maybe that is why we usually like the book more?)

Perks is a movie I saw before reading the book and I liked the book, loved the movie.  The book is also told in diary form and that is so overdone.

Part of the reason the movie worked so well for me is it could have been filmed in my high school in the years I was attending high school.  It was the first time I really felt nostalgic for a movie.  It excited me in a way no other movie has in years.  I loved it.

Every time I see it I get excited all over again.

10.The Fugitive- This is probably the best TV adaptation as the original series was pretty standard police drama but it is one of the best crime dramas ever made.  Tommy Lee Jones is great.  Harrison Ford is great.

Harrison Ford seemed to figure out in the middle of his career that what makes an action movie hero great is when he almost loses every time.  You see that in Indiana Jones and in the Fugitive.  He is so close to being caught so many times and gets beat pretty bad by a man with one arm.

The special effects also hold up.  The train crash still looks convincing.  The writing is very well done and surprises me.  Just an overall great movie.

11. Bridget Jones Diary- This technically counts as two good adaptations- Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding.  It even could be considered an homage to the 1995 miniseries starring Collin Firth who is in this film and playing a man named Darcy.

Renee Zellweger, who I normally don’t like, is very funny as Bridget.  She tries to do everything right but ends up messing everything up.  Aside from maybe You’ve Got Mail, this is the movie I tend to quote to other people most of the time.  So many good lines.

My favorite is ‘“You seem to go out of your way to make me feel like an idiot every time you see me, and you really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time.” 

Another movie that is at least tangentially about work and the dreams of the modern woman for love, success and friends.

12. Sound of Music- The original play was written off of a book by Maria Von Trapp which I am told is pretty boring.  Rogers and Hammerstein took said story and turned it into a starring vehicle for Mary Martin, which is fine except Martin has a small musical range.

When they adapted it into a movie they removed 3 of the songs that didn’t work and added a new song I Have Confidence.  They also rearranged certain scenes so the Lonely Goat-herder song comes before the party and My Favorite Things comes when the children are scared.  That makes much more sense.

It is one of my favorite movies and I recently went to a Rogers and Hammerstein concert at the Utah Symphony.  When they played Eidelweiss it made me cry.  I can’t even explain it.  It’s just so touching.  (Don’t even get me started with the recent Sound of Music Live atrocity!)

I would also say that West Side Story is a stronger movie than play too.  In fact, a bunch of musicals are that way.

As Good As the Book- There are so many I could have picked that are amazing adaptations but I can’t really say they are better than the book because both the movie and books are fabulous.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Anne of Green Gables, All Jane Austen (seriously everything from Clueless to Pride and Prejudice has a remarkable winning streak for Miss Austen), North and South, Shakespeare adaptations, are all great movies and books.

Same holds true for Harry Potter, Jane Eyre and Christmas Carol.  The movies and books are both good.

What adaptations, remakes and reboots are your favorite?  Which one’s do you think are better than the source material?





Princess Bride


Making Videos, My Blu-ray Collection, and a Giveaway

Hi! It’s a ridiculous hour but I’ve been so engrossed in a project that I’ve been working through the night.  For the last year I’ve been making youtube videos using just a webcam/phone and I enjoyed doing that but I felt I could learn so much more about photography, videography, youtube, creating an internet presence, video editing and so much more.

I’ve also yearned for a long time to do something more creative in my work, so maybe gaining new skillsets will help me in that regard.  At the worst I am learning something new and having a good time along the way so win-win

It’s been a lot of work saving, purchasing and organizing but I’ve finally got almost all the pieces I need to make better videos and I set up a cool backdrop in my room.

new backdropOne problem I have is my room gets very hot when I have the lights on and it is too dim even during the day to be a good spot for filming.  There isn’t much of any space in the rest of the house to do the backdrop/tripod setup.  The whole brilliance of my room is that it has total blackout but it does create problems for filming videos.  I need to figure out a way to keep cool, so if anyone has any ideas let me know.  I suppose I can just keep my videos short which is probably a win-win.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to do a video on my blu-ray collection for a while and it seemed like this would be a perfect testing ground for the new equipment.  I still have to get editing software and a better camera microphone but that’s around $500 so will do that when I can.  Plus, I figure master one thing at a time.  (Took me 6 years to get a handle on twitter, facebook, blogging, so I’ve got time).

It’s not a perfect video but I’m learning and I’m proud of it.  If you watch the whole video I am giving away DVD copies of Gravity, Les Miserables and Captain Phillips.  Also there is a BLU Ray 3D  of Gravity if you are interested in that.  Simply subscribe to my blog, follow me on twitter (or facebook) and subscribe to my youtube channel and email me your address.  First come first served.  If you already follow me on those mediums just share it with your followers.  THANKS!!!

Thanks so much for reading my blog, watching my videos, and helping to give me the confidence to keep trying and learning new things.  I’m so grateful for this blog- more than you all know and I hope maybe I inspire you to go learn something new. in your life.

Drumroll…the movie:

What blu-ray’s do you have? What do you think of mine? Any you dislike or like?  Let me know.  Take care friends!

Sure love ya!


Where the Wild Things Are Defended

Of all the movies I love the most controversial may be Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are?

I can’t think of any movie where literally half of the party I was with thought it was dazzling and half hated it.

It’s very polarizing, so let me explain why I like it.

The movie starts off with a boy named Max who builds a series of forts.  The first is a snow fort and then another is in his room with blankets.

Max becomes angry when the snow fort is destroyed by his sister Claire’s friends and she won’t do anything to help (or even look at said fort at the beginning) and then again when his mother won’t pay attention to his fort at home.

Everyone seemingly is ignoring and destroying him and he can’t do a thing about it.  His emotions feel out of control (big point of the movie). The fort, snowballs, bullies, all of Max’s emotions are all foreshadowing to what you see later with the animals except for with them Max has control and in the beginning he has none.  He is all hurt, anger, and emotion.

Then he goes to school and his teacher tells him about environmental collapse and the death of the sun.  He then has to meet his mother’s new boyfriend and he has a tantrum and runs away to our magic land.  You can feel Max like a tea pot boiling up ready to burst at any moment.

where the wild things are

Why does this work for me?  Because I remember being a kid and feeling angry and scared.  I remember puzzling at the things I was taught that seemed to be beyond belief or so sad they made me sad.  I remember staring up into the ceiling late at night and wondering why people were so mean and difficult to understand.

I remember thinking that if only people would listen to me they would see what I was trying to say.  Especially when I was teenager I  felt frustrated at my complete inability to express what was inside my heart.

One time I literally stomped my feet and told my family that

‘you are the weird one’s. I’m the normal one and you don’t get it’. (see I was the wild one….)

Granted it was a completely ridiculous thing to say, if I wanted any good done, but it was a pent up explosion of emotions.  Isn’t it basically another way of saying and conveying what Max is feeling?  ‘You all don’t understand, don’t listen and it is making me angry and worried’.

So, Max runs and finds a boat that takes him across the ocean and to a land with 7 ‘wild things’.  In a brilliant touch these are not CGI creations but puppets from Jim Henson’s studio.  This makes them feel tactile like a kids stuffed animal.

where-the-wild-things-are-figuresThe first of the creatures he meets is Carol, who is in the middle of a tantrum, caused by the abandonment of a girl wild thing named KW.  At first Max is excited about the tantrum and joins in and then realizes the wild things want to eat him.

Using his quick thinking Max convinces them not to eat him and that he is actually a king that has come to rule them and help them be happy.   They get it and this is very exciting for Max.  They do what they are told!

They agree and his first order of business is to call a wild rumpus where they destroy trees and play.

Now I tell you what kid would not do just that when named King over wild monsters?  A wild rumpus is so brilliant in its chaos yet predictability.

At this point Max looks happy for the first time in the movie.  He is finally allowed to play and let all the misunderstanding and frustrations out.  He is also allowed to lead, taken seriously by someone, and this makes him happy.

I totally relate to this as the times in my life when I am given that reaction are typically the most gleeful.

I think of myself after finishing a swim and how great it feels to have conquered a wild thing, something people think is really hard.  I suspect there is something inside all of us that likes to conquer chaos.

So, the wild things pile up for the night and we get a better introduction to all 7 Carol, Ira, Judith, Alexander, Douglas, the Bull, and K.W.   Each represent a different part of Max’s life and personality.

Carol- is the tantrum, angry side that wants to be understood, Ira and Judith are a couple and Judith is loud and bossy, Douglas is a good friend and loyal to Carol, KW is lonely and on the outside of the group, Alexander is talked down to and mistreated (the victim of the group), The Bull is on the side and less developed.

There are also 2 owls that are introduced named Bob and Terry.  These are outsiders to the group who KW is friends with (much like Max’s mother’s boyfriend who comes in  as an outsider that only she likes) but the rest don’t like especially Judith who says they should not be allowed into the group’s fort.

Max had previously stated that any outsiders will have their ‘brains automatically cut off”.  To try and solve the division Max starts a dirt clod fight that he thinks will separate the good from the bad.

Look how happy he is at the beginning of this scene, how free he feels.  It’s beautiful:

Unfortunately things do not go well and Alexander is hurt, KW leaves again.  Just as Max had done earlier in the movie, Carol becomes angry at Max for not doing a better job as king.  How could he allow people to get hurt?  He was supposed to help KW not leave and yet she did anyway? Max realizes that Carol is disappointed in him much like he is disappointed in his Mother.

Carol and Max talk about what worries them.  “How can guys like us worry about a tiny thing like the sun?”  but you know they are worried and worried about their friendships and lives and whether they will be happy.

I wrote in my journal once- ‘how do you turn the worry off?’  That is so beautifully expressed in this scene:

As Carol becomes more upset, Douglas finally tells him that Max is  “just a boy, pretending to be a wolf, pretending to be a king”.  Isn’t his mother pretending to be a queen?

At least it is that way to Max and she seemingly let’s him down over and over again.  She never seems to rescue him.  ‘You are out of control” he says to Carol just as his Mom had said to him. Your emotions are out of control!

Carol says, “You were supposed to take care of us.  You promised” (gut wrenching part.) all go back to Max’s home life and his mother. His Mother was supposed to make sure bad things didn’t happen to him but they do all the time.

Feeling betrayed Carol  says he is going to eat Max just like Max had done earlier to his Mom before he bit her.  He then throws his biggest tantrum yet (much similar to the tantrum thrown by Max before being sent to bed without any supper). In his rage Carol rips off Douglas’ arm and chases Max into the forest.   Max is then saved by KW who hides him in her stomach.  Max listens as Carol and KW have an argument about why she always leaves him.

Like Claire used to be Max’s friend KW has moved on from Carol and they both feel sad about it but it seems necessary for KW to explore new worlds and friendships

Then Max starts to realize how little control his mother has over him and Claire and it is not her fault that they are growing up, becoming more distant.  It is also not her fault that she can’t understand or deal with him all the time.  He can’t deal with Carol (who is basically Max) so how could his mother? She is also not to blame for his father leaving or all the other hurts in his life.

And just as Carol is hurt and KW runs away, so him and his Mom, experience the same emotions and conflict. He knows just as he couldn’t help Carol be free from pain and neither can his mother.  What a realization for a kid!  His Mother is fallible and weak but has a good heart.

I think Max see’s the unhappiness of Carol and KW and knows for the first time that his mother is unhappy.  He see’s her loneliness  All the time he thought she controlled that but it turns out she isn’t in control.

Max understands what it is like for a second to be a parent because he was a king and his his mother has become a real person, a full human being.  He decides it is time to go home.

His goodbye to the Wild Things is so touching.  He says goodbye to his childhood and the innocence he had when he got there and now must enter the world of adult problems to help his mother. In a way it is kind of like Peter saying goodbye to Neverland.

The ending when Max and his mother reunite is perfect.  A child and Mother truly understanding each other as people not simply Role 1- Mother and Role 2- Son.   I cry my eyes out for about the last 15 minutes of this movie.

I know its a heady picture and it asks you go along with its premise, to accept unlikable characters, and see them grow, and to not have every question answered  It’s the journey of childhood.  From angry, happy, sad, worry, confused child to a man or woman trying to rule their mini-worlds as best they can. 

We also learn that no matter how noble the intentions of the ruler hurt, anger, betrayal and sadness will happen.  That is life.  Even God cannot prevent sadness. Life is Where the Wild Things Are.

A similarly polarizing movie is The Tree of Life which also seeks to talk about the human experience through art.  Tree of Life says that life is awe inspiring and beautiful.  Where the Wild Things Are seeks to talk about human emotions and growth.  Both are saying ‘this is how human beings really are…”

It is also a warning to Max of what the emotions can lead to if unchecked and unmolded.  All of us feel we could rule our lives the best and resent others telling us what to do. Then we occasionally realize we know nothing and don’t like the person we are turning into.  That’s when we need to look at ourselves, or meet our own Wild Things.  In the end, the movie is about realizing the humanity (wildness, quietness, fearfullness, all emotions) in others and in ourselves, and how weak we all really are.

Sometimes I think we are too scared of kids feeling these emotions, working through them organically, and temper them with drugs and entertainment?  Maybe reconciling them is the key to becoming fully human?

In the end it is a movie about a real person who comes into consciousness with himself.  That’s a powerful thing and I am forever moved by it.

So, that’s what I think.  Does my take on it make you see the movie even a bit differently?  If you dislike it, why?

Also, the music is gorgeous, sets dazzling, acting including child actor are all great, great voice cast.  I love it!


508 Swears- Hollywood Ratings are Ridiculous

rated r

Ok. Guys get ready for a little bit of a soapbox…

In the Mormon culture I grew up in it is commonly discouraged to see Rated R movies. I am not sure where that designation got started but it is a stupid way to evaluate content in a movie.  What!  You say! How can that be?

Here’s what’s going on…

If a movie has more that 3 f words it is immediately tagged with an R rating.  It does not matter scenario (war time, under attack, bullying, documentary, more than 3 you are out).

There is no limit that I can see on the number of swears that can be said to make something NC17.  As far as I can tell NC17 is used only for sexually explicit erotic movies like Showgirls.  We saw a great example this week of the lack of limits when Martin Scorsese’s movie Wolf of Wall Street had 508 f words.  A record! How exciting…

The most swears I have ever seen in a movie is 146 in Goodwill Hunting, which if you read this blog you know is a movie I hate and wouldn’t watch again without being bolted to the chair.

One I liked called Silver Linings Playbook had 76 but a lot of that was background and it did feel natural to the setting and place (see I’m not a total prude).

Last summer the movie Bully, a documentary about bullying and trying to STOP VIOLENCE was made R for 4 audible f words from the bullies beating up a kid on a buss.  This is a documentary! It’s not glorifying that behavior it’s trying to stop it.  Shouldn’t that count for something.

But no.  It’s an R.  So if someone has a rule about no R rated movies they miss out on one movie with 4 swears and are kept rightfully away from one with 508.  Should that really be the same rating?  It doesn’t make sense!

The next reason why the ratings system is stupid is how they judge violence.  If your scene has blood it is considered an R but if it is a bloodless death it can be PG13.  That’s how movies like the Hunger Games get away with murdering children for sport at a PG-13. I remind you Bully is an R that is trying to reduce child on child violence…ironic.

dark knightTake a look at this graphic it contains all the violent content of the Dark Knight, a PG-13 film.  This is so long that I had to make it super small font to fit on one page.  It includes shooting a cop, an explosion in a jail, a man’s face is burned off in chunks and a pencil is stuffed through another man’s head.  I mean what does a movie have to do to make R for violence?  Evidently be Saving Private Ryan and actually show a real invasion that actually happened with blood…but you can have pencils through heads no problem. Sigh…

Sensuality is another issue that the ratings are bonkers about.  You can only show certain things, make certain sounds or kisses to be PG-13.  It’s all ridiculous and kind of insulting.  We get what’s going on even if there’s a convenient white sheet in places.  Please!  Plus, sensuality depends so much on situation as far as offense.  Is it a real relationship? Are the characters married?  Is it a prostitute? The same scene could be wildly different in offensiveness depending on the story.  That’s why a flat rating for a list of objectionable scenes/words doesn’t make sense.

Here’s the thing I want to watch adult movies about adult topics.  I love children’s movies but I also like films about adult characters struggling with life and its challenges.  I am also willing to admit that some movies are not made for me and my moral and that’s ok.  I’m perfectly fine with that but we should at least be given a rating system that makes sense or have none at all like they do at Sundance.  This would force patrons to use a site like Screenit.com to find out the actual content of the movie and if it is something they feel comfortable seeing whether it is PG, PG-13, R or whatever.

The ratings are STUPID!!!  The only good they might be is to stop kids from seeing R’s in the theater..maybe. Although I snuck in once when I was in high school.  (secret…)

I think we should all look at criticism out there, read the screenit summary or detail and decide on our own terms if it is a movie we want to see.  That’s what I do with live theater.  No rating system required.

If a rating system couldn’t steer me away from seeing a pencil through a man’s face than it is of no use.  I’m on my own for determining movies to watch and I recommend the same to you.  Also share with your friends so they can use your experience to make their informed movie-going decisions.

I give the Rating system an F

rating system