Tag: movie reviews

Saturday’s Warrior Review

I normally don’t review movies on this blog very often but since Saturday’s Warrior is an LDS film I felt like it belonged here more.  It was interesting because I saw Everybody Wants Some, the new film from Richard Linklater today along with Saturday’s Warrior.  Both films are set in the late 70s and both are heavily nostalgic and both rely on music to tell their stories.  It’s funny because on the surface they couldn’t be more different but seeing them back to back I saw some similarities. To read my review for Everybody Wants Some go here.

Anyway, let’s talk about Saturday’s Warrior.  Based on the popular stage play written by Lex de Azevedo, Saturday’s Warrior is a musical focused on a Mormon family in the 1970s.

It starts in the premortal spirit life where the family is gathered to say goodbye as each of them leave to join their earthly family.  The oldest Jimmy and Pam promise the youngest Emily that they will make sure their parents don’t get tired of having kids before they can have her, the 8th child.

Then Julie, the second daughter, sings to her love Tod that they will find each other on earth. The last group is Wally Kestler who is desperate to go on a mission and convert the world.

saturdays warriorOnce they get to earth things get more complicated with the appeal of that darn old rock and roll music (gets you every time!) and Jimmy gets dragged into a band that is up to no good.  They even start singing a song literally called ‘Zero Population’ criticizing his big family and threatening the birth of little Emily.

Meanwhile Tod hasn’t been born with the gospel and is an artist and poor Elder Kestler doesn’t have much luck on his mission (until he meets Tod…spoiler alert).

The main appeal to this movie is the songs.  If you have nostalgia for the songs than you will probably enjoy it.  There is no attempt to lessen the camp at all and this is true for the songs.  Aside from having popular Mormon singers like Alex Boye involved they feel like they are straight from the 1970s.

saturdays warrior2I guess you either go with that kind of vintage feel or you don’t.  There’s also no attempt to update the production either.  It might as well have been shot on the Brady Bunch set how low budget 1970s it looks.  That has some appeal but wears thin after a while.

One thing that was weird is the camerawork seemed off the entire time. I am wondering if there was something wrong at my screening.  It felt like everything was chopped off.  You’d have characters talking and their foreheads would be chopped off of the shot.  It was very weird but when I watch the trailer I don’t see that happening.

saturdays warrior3The acting feels low budget and it is a religious film where the Mormon way is the right way and the other is the way of the devil.  Not a whole lot of in between.  If you are looking for a subtle movie about faith this is not the film for you. It’s very cheesy but I knew that going into it.  No surprises there!

Unfortunately the acting isn’t very good and it all feels like a Mormon episode of Saved by the Bell.

If you are a big fan of the music than you will probably enjoy it.  I had fun with it on that level but I can’t really recommend it.  It’s not a good movie but not the worse thing I’ve seen either so take that for what you will.

Overall Grade- D+ (2/5 stars)

My youtube review- If you like this review I would really appreciate subscribing to my channel or giving it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Batman (1966) vs Superman (1978)

Today is the day I get to see the new Batman vs Superman movie, and despite not being a hard-core fan I’m very excited.  My hope is the movie will focus on the heroes more than the typical Batman movie, which tend to be very villain-centric. Are you excited for the film?

I have been profiling Batman and Superman on my other content lately.  On my movie blog I reviewed:

All the Batman films

All the Superman films

I would love your thoughts on both of those posts.  Which Superman and Batman movie do you like the  most?

Over on my youtube channel as part of Family Movie Night series I took a look at the old Adam West Batman: The Movie from 1966.  It’s often looked at as ridiculous and stupid but I don’t think that is fair as it is supposed to be a comedy.  Adam West is very dapper and charming as Batman/Bruce Wayne.  The villains are a lot of fun and I love how everything is labeled.

batman 1966 labelsHere is my review:

And then for this week I took a look at Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman 2 (1980).  I didn’t feel the 1978 film held up that well.  It takes so long to get everything going- an hour before we see Christopher Reeves, who is so great as Superman.  I loved him and Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.  I thought they had excellent chemistry.  This is why I liked Superman 2 much better because they get a lot more screen time.  Plus, I think Zod is much better villain than Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.

Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve in Superman.

Here is my youtube review:

I would love to know your thoughts on these films and the franchises in general.  It’s been a lot of fun looking at all the different takes on such iconic and popular characters.  It’s kind of like Christmas Carol in a way.  The same basic story and framework can run the gambit of emotions and styles depending on who is doing the storytelling.

Keep an eye on the movie blog and channel for my review of Batman v Superman and here’s to ‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way!’

If you think my videos are any good give them a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Movie Munchies: Ratatouille

Today I get to present to you the 2nd episode in my Movie Munchies series.  Just in time for Valentines Day Jacqueline and I make the french dish ratatouille and talk about- you guessed it- Pixar’s Ratatouille!  These videos were a huge challenge for me so I would love your feedback.  We plan to do a couple a month so if you have ideas for good movie/recipe combinations please put in the comments sections.

Also if you try the recipe let me know what you think.  It’s a very versatile dish that you can use as a main dish or side.  Very tasty.

Thanks so much for your feedback and help!

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
1 large eggplant (1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large yellow onions (1 pound total), diced large
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced large
2 large zucchini (1 pound total), diced large
1 lb mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

Salt the eggplant and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Saute peppers, onions and garlic till translucent.  Add eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms and get some color.  Add tomatoes and then let stew on medium low heat as long as you can.  Serve as a topping for pasta or a side with meat.

Movie Munchies 1: Apricot Chicken/Blind Side

Hi guys!  I wanted to share with you a very exciting video I just posted on my youtube channel.  It’s called Movie Munchies where we will review a film and make a recipe on the same video.  This week to celebrate the Super Bowl we are talking about 2009’s The Blind Side and making my favorite apricot chicken drumsticks- perfect for game day.  This was a huge challenge for me and I would love to get your feedback.

We’ve already got episode 2 filmed and will probably do this a couple of times a month.  If you have any ideas for good movie/meal parings please let me know!

Making this video required a whole new kind of editing and filming for me so I learned a lot but I’m really excited for the future.  I loved my chemistry with Jacqueline and found the entire experience very rewarding.  I know each episode will only continue to improve.

Thanks for checking it out.

3 lbs drumsticks or other meat
1 cup onions diced
1 cup bell peppers diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c firmly packed cup brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c honey
1 14 ounce bottle ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
1 jar apricot preserves
Olive Oil
Heat up onions, peppers, and garlic till translucent. In separate skillet sear the chicken on high heat to get a golden brown color. Add all ingredients except for jam, heat and then let simmer till it thickens.
Add apricot jam to mixture and poor over chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for an hour, remove tin foil at 30 minutes. Test with thermometer. Want chicken 165 degrees or higher.
Enjoy! Let me know if you like it and I’ve made it with wings, pork, ribs etc.

Phantom Menace Review and Discussion

Check out my first Star Wars review of Episode 1: Phantom Menace. My friends Jeremy and Abby joined me for a google chat about the movie. I’d love for you all to take a look as it was my first time hosting a live google hang out. I think it went pretty well.

Rachel's Reviews

phantom menace99Hi guys!  So yesterday marked the start of my new Star Wars series and I am going to be doing reviews on this blog plus a new web series on my youtube channel.  I am going to be discussing with my friends Abby and Jeremy each of the Star Wars movies and yesterday we tackled Episode 1: Phantom Menace.  It was my first time doing a Live Google Hangout and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Most people know I was not a fan of the Star Wars prequels but I have always stood up for Phantom Menace a little bit because Attack of the Clones seemed so much worse at the time  (we will see what I think this week).  But I have to say on the rewatch Phantom Menace was a lot worse than I remembered. It has some decent sequences but at the core it…

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Why Fs are Important

f-school-letter-grade2“If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative” Woody Allen.

I don’t say this often but I completely agree with Woody Allen on this one!  The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about grades and how we assess things and people in our culture.  On my movie blog http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com I give a grade at the end of the review.  This can be anywhere from an A+ to an F.  Up until this point I have only given 7 Fs out of close to 250 reviews I’ve done.

Since I’m sure you are curious the 7 Fs are-  Chicken Little, Brother Bear, Dinosaur, Road to El Dorado, Maleficent, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, and The Lorax.  These are movies which I think are complete failures.  Ds on the other hand I didn’t like but I found some things to enjoy so it isn’t a total failure.

Most people are with me for this part of the grading system.  It’s when we get into Cs that it is interesting.  I have noticed many people treat a C grade like it is an F.  To me a C is in the middle.  It’s half way between an A and an F.  It’s an average, ok movie.  If I hated it I would give it an F.

If people actually read my reviews instead of just looking at the grade they would see on my C grades I say lots of nice things about said movie.  Such a movie is not a failure but there are some problems that keep it from the masterpiece or good levels of A and B.  That’s ok.  Not every movie can be a masterpiece and I get a lot of enjoyment out of the C movies.

Anyway people kept treating Cs like Fs so frequently that it made me wonder if Fs weren’t a part of the cultural lexicon as much as when I was at school.  I asked a friend and she said it is nearly impossible to get an F in school.  If you do anything you will most likely get a C.  So no wonder a C is seen as a failing grade if it takes the bare minimum of effort!

I have a problem with this.  First of all, it leaves teachers with only 3 options for a student.  5 is hard enough but if every student is either Great, Good or Failure that isn’t good.  C should be a place for a person who is in the middle of the pack.  I guess those people are Bs now but what about those that are almost top of the class?  That should be a B and a C should be for those that are right in between.  That’s an important dilatation.  Not everyone is going to be great or terrible at things.  Some things we will be average at, even for the best students, and that’s ok.  School was tough for me, especially college and I was more than happy to be a C earner on multiple occasions and if I had felt like that C was a failure forget it! We need that average score!

bart gets an f

We also need the Fs for several reasons.  First if there is no fear of actual failure with real consequences what motivation is there to try your hardest?  In one of my favorite Simpsons episodes ‘Bart Gets an F’ Bart finds out if he doesn’t shape up academically he will need to repeat the 4th grade.  This fear of the consequences of failure whips him into gear and he tries as hard as he can.  And he gets a D which is a huge victory for him.  If he had just been given a C because we don’t want to hurt his feelings than he wouldn’t have tried so hard and learned something.

When I was going to school there were many times I would leave the testing center in tears, having tried my hardest but still failed.  But that was a good thing.  I was forced to push beyond what I thought my limits are and actually learn the tough stuff or at least be average competency at it. If I knew I would get a C for just showing up and doing the bare minimum forget it.

And what are we trying to do with education anyway?  What separates education from day care is the kids are supposed to be learning something in school. And with the exception of special education situations if they don’t learn the assigned topic than the education has been a failure.  They deserve an F.  It should not be this devastating humiliating thing.  It should be a normal part of life that every once in a while, and sometimes a lot, we fail at things.  What do we do with that failure and how do we make it into a success?  Now that is where the true education comes into play!

The other thing is if a C has become the new F than you lose the ability to really differentiate problems in a sea of averageness.  For example, I was bullied pretty badly from 4th and into 5th grade with it getting especially bad the latter Fall.  I downplayed this at home telling my Mom about the incidents in a laughing silly kind of way.  Like it was no big deal.  Then I got a D in Math that Christmas.  My parents knew there was a problem.  It was a touchpoint that made them aware of other issues much more important than the math.  As a result I was pulled from the school and went to private school for the rest of the year that changed my life.

I don’t think that would have happened without the D.  The teacher could have thought it was harsh to give me a D because I did try but it was the grade I deserved and I’m glad she gave it to me.  Very glad.  Ds and Fs should be signs to parents, administrators, even children that there is something wrong and we need to look for solutions.  To just whitewash everything with a vanilla C takes away that opportunity for introspection and growth.

You can say grades are stupid and we shouldn’t give them out anyway, and to a certain extent I agree with you.  If a child is progressing that is the most important thing; however, I don’t think credit should be given for learning something if it wasn’t actually done.  If we got rid of grades completely than again we lose that touchpoint to easily compare things.  Not everything in life can have a long discourse or excuse.  Sometimes you just need to be able to look at a few key figures and say ‘ok Sally is doing better at English than Math. Let’s focus on that”.

I’ve thought about not giving grades on my movie reviews because I think people sometimes don’t read the review but just go right to the grade.  This is frustrating because I may explain something that you may say ‘she didn’t like that but it would be great for me’.  Like I don’t like scary movies so I may say as a negative a movie is too scary for me but if you like scary movies than it might sound great to you!  My grade is just that-my grade.  It’s what I thought of the movie.  I don’t try to imagine what others might think.  It is just my opinion.

I also don’t use a rubric like some critics do because sometimes my feelings both good and bad can’t be quantified.  It is just an overall experience with a film that deserves a certain grade.  I feel sometimes my friends with rubrics are held back by them from giving a movie a grade they know it really deserves.   I didn’t give grades for my Scrooge month series and I think people were a little more inclined to actually read the reviews, so I’m still considering it.   What do you think? If you read reviews what do you like as far as ranking systems and scores?

Regardless, the changing in the American mind of a C from average to failure is not a good thing.  People should be allowed to fail and it not be as big of a deal.  It’s part of the learning experience.  And if they fail I’m not going to sugarcoat it with a C.  That’s doing a disservice to all the people/movies/whatever who worked so hard for that C.

Plus, how do you delineate what is truly special if there isn’t an equally strong opposite?  Has an A also lost all of its meaning and value?

What do you think?  Do you see this as a problem?  Are we too afraid to let kids fail? What about how we grade or rank other things like movies or books?  Did you ever get a D or F that whipped you into gear or helped you? What do you think the solution is?


2014 Year in Review

2014 was honestly one of the best years of my life. Yep, it’s true. It really has been a great one and it feels so long I’m kind of left wondering what even happened at the beginning of the year?

Well, the highlight of those early months was Christmas 2013 I decided to focus my energy on making my youtube channel as great as it could be. I made a background and got off the webcam and learned how to edit. (Poor few who suffered through my previous videos thank you!).

2015 my channel should get even better and I am so excited. I’ve learned so much, made new friends and had a blast. If you aren’t subscribed please do. It really helps me out and I think you will enjoy either the box or movie reviews I post. https://www.youtube.com/user/smilingldsgirl

channel art3

When I started to work on my channel I thought I was just doing it as a hobby but all that I learned proved to be extremely helpful in a surprise opportunity that came around March. My Dad told me about a job opportunity he had heard about at Kobayashi which is the company that bought Grabber where I used to work. It was in the marketing department, particularly digital content.

It was a part time job but anxious for a chance to break out of accounting I jumped at the chance and applied. It’s one of those tender mercies because if I hadn’t decided to work on my channel months before I wouldn’t have had a chance of getting that job. But after about a month and a half of applications, interviews and waiting I got the job! It was so exciting!

It was one of the best days of my life when I started the new job and it has been a great experience ever since. I’m grateful for all those years in accounting but to be able to do something new and creative, putting all my social media and blogging experience to use, is really a dream come true. Plus, still get to work from home and telecommute. I am so blessed.


And yes, the dream job really is a dream!

In March we had the 40th book celebration for my book club. It’s kind of sad now because I’ve taken a bit of a break . With an injury it became too much wrangling people and planning everything, but I’m sure eventually I’ll feel inspired to start it up again. Regardless, it was a fun party to throw.

My friends from book club.  Love these girls
My friends from book club. Love these girls
book fabric from scizzors etsy store.
book fabric from scizzors etsy store.

Before I started the new job I had the chance to travel and took a risk to visit an old friend from high school Kim Durkin I hadn’t seen in 15 years. We had kept in touch through facebook and I was a little nervous we wouldn’t have much in common but we had a wonderful time together. She was an amazing host and I loved going to the beach every day. It was gorgeous and I really had the time of my life. Plus, I was in between jobs so it was the first vacation in years where I didn’t think about work at all and just enjoyed myself.




Just after Tampa I was able to swim in the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim 1 mile race and despite cramping at the start I got a great time, nearly 20 minutes faster than the previous year.



In July I got the chance to visit my folks in California and had a good time seeing my nieces.



Unfortunately the trip would end by a slip in the shower and a torn MCL that would dominate the rest of the year. I’m still going to physical therapy for the darn injury.


My injury meant that I couldn’t swim at my usual Deer Creek race, which I was feeling pretty depressed about. Well, in an attempt to turn a negative into a positive I decided to watch the entire Disney canon something I’ve always wanted to do. It took me from August to November but I started a new blog and had a blast watching all the Disney films.


I had so much fun with it and enjoyed conversing with other movie lovers that I kept up the blog even when the project was ever and did Scrooge Month in December where I reviewed 30 different versions of Christmas Carol. If you haven’t looked at the reviews please do and add your comments. I am very proud of the quality of the writing and I learned a lot from each review I did. Plus, I had so much fun watching all these movies. (2014 was also a great movie at the theaters too).


I worked more movie reviews into my channel and started a whole series called the ABC’s of my blu-ray collection. It hasn’t gotten a ton of hits but I’ve enjoyed making the videos which is what matters. I just posted the letter’s I and J.

I also continued my box reviews and set up a facebook page to promote the channel and have giveaways. If you aren’t a follower to both please check them out.

Got to https://www.facebook.com/smilingldsgirlreviews for the facebook page.


I had the chance to do a collaboration with the Lawn Gnome which was really fun on our Top Forgotten Animated Films.

I’m just really proud of myself for taking a sucky situation and finding the positives. I took on a whole new adventure and had a great time when it was very painful and difficult. I hope that is something I will have in my pocket for the future when life gets tough. Thank you to anyone who read any of my reviews or watched any of my videos. It means so much to me and really helped me get through a sad and painful experience.

The Fall flew by. Two of my best friends moved this year, which was very hard for me. I miss both Emily and Tania so much.

emily and I

Tania and me.
Tania and me.

In November I spent the month working on my Nanowrimo novel which I finished! Winner!


The elections also made me very happy in November! Wahoo!


The rest of the fall was about work and trying to help my knee to heal. I watched a lot of movies, blogged a lot, made a lot of videos and spent a lot of time with friends and family. It was a very happy time if frustrating with the injury.

old firends

So with a new job, blog and channel I couldn’t have asked for better for 2014. Yes I wish I hadn’t been injured but I wouldn’t have been inspired to write and try something new, so it all worked out. I’m grateful for my life and the good people I have cheering me on and worrying about me. I am so blessed by the Lord.

christmas card

Most importantly I’ve felt Jesus guide me all year and help me to forgive others and remain positive even when in pain. He is the source of all happiness in my life and I know He loves me and is aware of my needs.


May 2015 be as great as 2014 for you and me and everyone! Sure love ya all!


You Never Know Until You Watch: Peabody and Sherman

First of all I am writing you at 2:30 am because my sleep is all messed up.  I had some caffeine on Friday (huge mistake but I kept falling asleep during work) and then had 0 sleep Friday night.  This led to a strange Saturday where I tried my best to not crash but fell asleep around 6 pm.

I woke up at 1 am and now am ready for the day to start…Oh boy. This is going to be a mess to fix.

But while I was searching for entertainment to pass the day/night hours I saw a movie called Mr Peabody and Sherman.

mr peabody My initial reaction was to groan as the Hollywood reinventions of our childhood favorites is typically a disaster (smurfs, yogi bear, scooby doo etc).  But I had heard some good things so I decided to give it a watch and you know what- I was delighted!

It’s a really funny, well written movie!

There’s some low-brow humor for the kids but it’s kind of the Bill and Ted’s Adventure Jr with Mr Peabody and Sherman zipping through time to different eras.  There are good jokes in each era including a segment with Marie Antoinette that was funny.

Mr.-Peabody-and-Sherman-Marie-AntoinetteThe Greek Trojan horse scene was also very funny.

It’s not a perfect movie but for what they had to work with it kind of is.  I can’t imagine doing the material any better as a feature film and that has to count for something.  The writing is very witty and there are jokes for kids and adults without them being too adult.

It’s also bright and colorful- pleasant to look at.  I really was shocked at how much I enjoyed it!


It just goes to show you should always try to keep an open mind in life.  Maybe an author hasn’t been your favorite but if it sounds intriguing give the book a shot.  Or if you don’t normally like sitcoms and you hear good things give it a watch.  What do you have to lose?

There are so many times when I’ve been dazzled by something I initially discounted.  As far as movies go its happened a couple times in my Disney project (Rescuers Down Under, Atlantis: The Lost Empire I really liked!) and it definitely happened with this years Lego movie. 

It’s so easy to be a cynic and to criticize everything.  I prefer to be dazzled by most things and then when I am critical you know it is earned!

Give Mr Peabody and Sherman a watch.  I bet you will enjoy it. Try something you might have discounted and see if it surprises you! Let me know your experience.

Have you ever had a book, movie, tv show, food whatever that you initially thought would suck but then actually loved?  Please share.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: A Movie Review

It’s gotten to the point my friends that I don’t get out to the theater as much as I would like. Last year it was once from January to August.  This year twice. Today was #2 and it was a film I was eagerly awaiting- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-postersI know what you are thinking.  An ape movie?  Really Rachel?


Have an open mind, and I bet you will be dazzled by the movie (and maybe even think a little bit while you are at it).

Dawn is the 8th entry in the Apes franchise that started in 1968 with Charlton Heston. In that film Heston lands on earth to find humans are no longer thriving and apes are the evolved species.  There were then 5 follow ups and a TV series, which were all pretty entertaining.

Then in 2001 Tim Burton made his laughable Planet of the Apes with Mark Walburg (who seems to have a habit of falling into very bad movies, The Happening, transformers…)

In 2011 we got a new version called Rise of the Planet of the Apes which basically ignored the Burton movie and became a prequel to the original film.  It was very good but was pulled down by some weak human actors James Franco, Frieda Pinto and others.

So now in Dawn we have moved to 10 years past the events in Rise and the apes have started to evolve into their own civilization while the humans have been annihilated by the virus introduced in the last film.  In fact, the apes think humans are completely gone and haven’t heard anything from them in 2 years.

They were very clever to not make the apes too evolved.  It is after all only 10 years.  Caesar, the leader of the apes, played by Andy Serkis (oscar worthy performance), has taught the apes how communicate using the sign language taught to him by Franco.  These interactions are presented to us as a subtitle like in a foreign film.

It feels believable apes could learn to communicate in that way.  They also use short phrases and words like home, family, war, ape, and human.

The two main apes are Caesar and Koba who present different takes on the relationship with humans.  Caesar avoids war and remembers Franco with nostalgia while Koba fears man and remembers being tortured by them.  This is main question of the movie.  When is the time for peace and when is the time for protecting one’s country and people?

It is interesting yesterday I heard Prime Minister Netanyahu debate these very ideas on Face the Nation.  Some see Israel as acting in an aggressive way and wish they would try harder to bring peace.  Others, including Netanyahu, feel they must defend themselves and their interests.

So, Koba and Caesar are the most compelling characters in the story and the stop motion capture is amazing.  The fur is fluid.  The movement feels smooth and after a few minutes you forget it is a special effect and it is just Caesar.  One thing making it so seamless is the green screen for the CGI was set up around the forest scenes which had never been done before.

Andy Serkis creates a character through his movements and facial expressions. Awesome

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APESMy only flaw with the apes is that at times it was hard to tell them apart aside from Koba and Caesar.  I don’t know how they could have improved on it but it was a challenge.

The apes eventually come into contact with a group of humans who need access to the dam that is next to the ape’s home.  Koba is very resistant, Caesar is more open to the idea.

Most of the human actors I am not overly familiar with.  Jason Clarke was new to me, and he was very good.  Kerri Russell takes a huge step up from Austenland.  Gary Oldman is good but not in that many scenes. Kodi Smit-McPhee is also good as Clarke’s son. All of them have seen their civilization and families get obliterated and the fatigue is on their faces.

movies-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-jason-clarkeSo, the apes and the humans come into conflict and contact with each other and the movie plays out at a very brisk feeling 2 hours and 10 minutes.  A few of the visuals are over-the-top.  There is an ape Rambo scene which is cool but a little corny.

But other than a few brief moments I don’t have much criticism.  It does not take the easy way out and idolize the apes (ala Avatar).  Nor does it paint the humans as heroes or villains.  It’s message is surprisingly simple- all creatures can be bad and good.  They all have the potential to cause pain on others.

I don’t want to give too much away but I loved it.  I walked away dazzled, entertained, moved, and inspired.  It is modern storytelling at it’s best and I recommend seeing it on the big screen.  It will have a lot more umph than at home.

As far as content it is fairly violent with war, deaths, murders, blood depicted by both apes and humans.  I heard 2 swears although there could have been more.  It was not a huge problem.

Content Grade- C+          Overall Grade A+ (I think this is about as well as you could make this kind of movie.  If you don’t like it than it may not be the genre for you.)


ps.  There were apes on horses.  It looked totally cool.

apes on horses

Life Itself: A Movie Review

“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”

Roger Ebert

I bet if the great film critic Roger Ebert and I met we would have about 2 things in common.  We disagreed on religion, morality, philosophy and definitely politics.  Why then do I admire him so much? I love Roger because of the way he got me to think. My parents are big on thinking and not just doing, but they don’t watch movies or television.

Let’s face it- being a kid in the post Star Wars world, means movies are a huge part of most of our lives.  So, when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were teaching me how to think about  movies, they were kind of teaching me how to think about life.  It was a building block to add on to what my parents demonstrated at home.

From 1975 to Siskel’s death in 1998 Gene and Roger reviewed movies on their PBS and then syndicated show under various titles, the longest being At the Movies.  They of course were famous for their thumbs up and thumbs down and their constant on air debates over the movies. Here’s one of their best

I have never seen Full Metal Jacket but I still find the review fascinating (and entertaining). In fact, I probably didn’t see 90% of the movies reviewed on Siskel and Ebert and yet I still loved watching the show.

Anyway, with that preface a new movie has come out about the life of Roger Ebert who died in 2013 after a long and painful battle with cancer. It is amazing to think one of the most verbose men in media became someone who could no longer speak. For the last 5 years of his life he communicated through a keyboard and laptop.  His blogging and twitter posts became his new voice and he taught many of us how to use the medium to enrich the world not simply criticize.

The film Life Itself is directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame and it is a lovely film about a man that lived a unique, fascinating life.  He started filming as he was going into a final surgery several years before his death.  They are unflinching (at one point insistently so by Roger) in showing the damage which had been done to Roger’s face and neck.  Even his famous Esquire magazine shoot did not really show what had happened to his face.

They show him writing and then go through his life starting as a young journalism student who insisted on a page edit on his local paper the day Kennedy was shot.  Then it moves on to his first job at the Chicago Sun Times, his alcoholism, his Pulitzer prize winning writing, his time on the show, relationship with Gene Siskel, his marriage and then his illness and last chapter.

I learned a lot about Roger Ebert from the movie but it also reminded me of all of the lessons I’d learned from Roger over the years.  He taught me about movies but also subtely how to live.   Roger and Gene were a reminder to all of us that to share your opinion is not something to be fearful of and to avoid but it is a gift of knowledge and discussion to the world.  Through sharing we hopefully become better people.  I suspect Siskel and Ebert did that for a lot of people.  They made us better by sharing their perspective.

Life Itself is a loving piece but not a complete lovefest.  It makes it clear Siskel and Ebert really did not care for each other for most of their careers.  Roger was also an egotist and a perfectionist to a fault, but we all have our flaws don’t we?

I love learning about people’s lives and how they became who they are.  If you enjoy those types of documentaries than you will like Life Itself- even if you disagreed with Roger Ebert most of the time.  He had quite the life.

Getting back to the quote from above.  Roger Ebert says the movies create ‘shared empathy’.  I propose they do such a thing because he and Gene Siskel taught us to see that empathy.  To look beyond the moment and think about the art whether it was a blockbuster, a silly comedy or a war movie:

Siskel and Ebert showed all of us how to watch the movies.

I’m grateful.  Thumbs up!

Overall Grade A              Content Grade C   (There are a few photos briefly shown of naked women, and a few swears but not too bad)

roger ebert

This is perhaps their best reviews because they both hated it so much.  Love it.