Posts Tagged ‘ Dreamworks ’

The Croods

the_croods_movie-wideIt’s not easy being a Crood. With your neighbors killed by wild beasts, food scarce, and the climate rather inhospitable, there is a reason you value your home so much, even if it is just a cave. There’s just one problem. The world is coming apart at the seams, the Pangea seams that is, and the Croods are right on top of those places where the continents decide to come apart. Soon their entire world is rocked to the core. Their cave is destroyed, their land crumbled to bits, and Grug (Mr. Crood) is responsible for finding his family a new home.

This is easier said than done. Not only does he have to protect his family, but he has a curious daughter (Eep) who is itching for something new. New things however, and curiosity, can get you killed. “Never not be afraid” that’s Grug’s motto, and it has kept his family alive and healthy in the past years. Now however there’s new territory, new animals, and a new guy (who’s name is… Guy) who all challenge his tried and true saying.

The world is coming apart, Eep is chasing this Guy who has these things called “ideas”. Somehow, someway, Grug has got to keep his family alive through it all.

Things I Liked

If this movie could have another working title, it would be called “Mr. Crood” because indeed, he is the focus of the movie. Grug embraces everything a father should be though, perhaps at times, a little to hard. He lives a life of sacrifice for his family by eating after everyone else, putting his life on the line every-time he leaves the cave, and is surprisingly open about how he is feeling. He is brave, loyal, and loving. We know without a doubt he would give anything to protect and provide for his family. Grug is not without his faults however, he worries constantly and rejects and sort of change. Just like all dads today, he has the right intentions, but is having trouble how to carry them out in this new land and trials.

Guy is a young man who has new ideas. Something Grug, nor any of his family have ever dreamed of, because of course, new is bad. Guy shares these ideas like fire, shoes, and sleds with the Grug family freely to help with their survival. Even though he has both his eyes on Eep, he does stick with and help the whole family, rather than running off with the young lass. It was great to see Guy attracted to Eep, but not abandoning the family and usurping Grug’s authority in that process.

We see both Guy and Grug have an emotionally raw and honest conversation. As opposite as the two are, both come to not only trust and learn from each other, but compliment each other as leaders of the same family. Speaking of which, the entire movie is about family. This family fights, just like all of us. They also persevere and look out for each other. Seeing a family, albeit a bit unorthodox, stick and work together as a unit was an additional theme I enjoyed.

In addition to having some solid family values, this movie is quite honestly very funny. Watching the Croods learn and experience new ideas such as fire, shoes, belts, and more was a great way to add humour into the film without detracting from the overall focus. This flick is also beautifully animated, rivaling Disney in epic landscapes and attention to detail.

Things I Didn’t Like

This movie clearly operates under the belief of evolutionary thinking. The Croods are cavemen, there are dozens of animals which would be classified as “missing links” in evolutionary circles. This movie presents without question a way the world could have been a couple million years ago. It is an underlying message that seems innocent, but can erode the shallow foundation of any child quite easily.

Eep is rebellious. Pure and simple. She doesn’t like the cave, or the rules, or the way things have always been the same. She wants more and disobeys her father, much like Ariel in the Little Mermaid, to find it. This puts herself and others at risk all the time. She also is rather aggressive in being with Guy. While he respects her father, she disregards Grug’s wishes consistently. In the end, there is resolution and both admit their faults, but this is not nearly as focused on as Eep’s seemingly justified quest to fulfill her curiosity above her father’s wishes. I asked a younger sibling of mine I took to see this movie what they thought of it. They said “It was kinda crazy and the dad was Mr. Worry and very mean.” I think it is worth noting that while Grug is completely selfless in all his actions, he is cast in a light which is dark. Then Eep, who is disobedient, is cast in the favorable light. This is something to be aware of.

Eep and Guy come very close to kissing in the movie, but never do. They do hug, touch, and generally stand extremely close to each other. There is a bit of crude humor, as we see Grug’s boxers the only thing left on his derrière after an extremely close encounter with a cat. All the characters in the movie are not very well or modestly dressed, granted it is an animated movie, but want to make sure you know all the same.

There is a lot of comic violence in the movie. While I did not mind this much, I want to be sure of inform you of the large amount of slapstick humour in the movie. The Croods continually hit each other with sticks, rocks, bones… pretty much anything they can find. They tumble, roll, slide, skid, are crushed, and bruised… yet come out just fine time after time. Much like the Tom and Jerry cartoons of the past, anything can happen to this family and they come out unharmed. That’s not to say however, the danger of death isn’t present. To the contrary, there are some quite intense moments of near death. Rocks and the earth tear apart, huge feral cats chase the Crood family, and casms reaching to the earth’s inner crust are present many times. Several times my younger sibling put their head on my arm because of the intensity of some earthquake scenes… Also something to bear in mind if taking a younger child to see this movie.

Closing Thoughts

“What is the purpose of staying alive if we can’t live?!?”

Eep asks this question when her father speaks of the importance of the cave, the place of safety. Indeed, staying alive offers very little motive when one is not allowed to live. See, everyone has their own individual purpose in this beginning of the film. Grug’s is to protect his family. Eep’s is to discover and explore. Guy’s is to innovate and come up with new ideas. All of these purposes we see create clashes in the family as far as relationships and pursuits.

Until that is, Guy introduces a new purpose. One called “Tomorrow” This tomorrow is filled with hope, promise of something better, and a continual pursuing of “the light”. This light for the Croods is the sun, and the promise of tomorrow the sun brings. Now, clearly any mention of God or Christ is lacking in this movie. That does not mean however, we cannot take a biblical truth from this movie and see it applied. Once the Croods, one by one, embrace this hope of tomorrow  they no longer act as cavemen, but as modern men, like Guy. They become new creatures, and through this much strife and conflict is resolved.

That’s where the value and true strength of this movie lies. Yes Grug is a commendable father figure in the end, yes there is self sacrifice, perseverance, and loyalty… But truly deep down, the movie adresses the issue of living. It makes the point it isn’t just enough to survive, we have to live. And the only way we can do that is through purpose. For the Crood’s it was hope in tomorrow. Which leads to an excellent question to ask any person who has thought about this movie… Where is your hope, and where is it leading you?

That’s what surprised me about this movie. It is more than just a funny family adventure (though it is for sure), it quest of purpose rooted in hope and faith. Without that hope, they would have failed. Without that faith, they would have remained afraid. I can honestly say this movie reminded me of the hope and faith I am to have in Christ, and if I don’t, just like the Croods,- how little I will accomplish in this world.

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Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln.

The mere mention that name brings thoughts of the Civil War, honesty, and freedom of slaves. Oft forgotten though, is his work of the 13th Amendment, which truly granted slaves freedom. Not the Emancipation Proclamation.

This film tells the story of how Lincoln worked to pass this amendment to our constitution. It shows the reasoning behind it, the politics involved, and the opposition to it. Some democrats in the Union refused to acknowledge black people as equal in the Nation. They fight long and hard to fail the amendment, as they argue the south will never surrender with slavery abolished. The amendment will prolong the war, and worse yet, completely divide the nation past the point of repair.We see a glimpse into how Abe lived his life during this short moment in history. We see his family. We see his cabinet. And most importantly, we see his personality brilliantly captured in a manner which not only compliments his virtues, but recognizes his flaws. He is a man, serving as president, in a divided country. He is Lincoln.

Things I liked

The star of this movie is of course Lincoln, and much of the movie is spent on how he lived in every aspect of life….
– Even thought Lincoln was president of the United states of America, family always came first. In cabinet meetings his son would drop in and Lincoln think nothing of it. His wife, Mary, still grieving over the loss of Willie, puts on the mask of a happy first lady, and supports Lincoln in his decisions. She will challenge him on his thoughts, but when his mind is made, she supports him completely. When the votes were being cast, Lincoln stayed at home with his son and spent the day with him. Over and over we see him placing family priorities above everything else in this movie.

– Lincoln was not as perfect a man as many of the history books make him out to be. He was wily and shrewd and could play politics with the best of them. That was not his usual Modus Operandi however. Often he would reason and talk to someone to achieve the desired goal or viewpoint. But when necessary, he acted in ways which were quite political and manipulative. At times we see him offer jobs of patronage for yes votes. One time he flat out lies the the representative assemble, an action deemed “Impeachable” by one of his advisors. I appreciated they made Lincoln a man who lived life. Not a man larger than life.

– Finally about the portrayal of Lincoln, was his personality and how he lead others. Manipulation was a rarity by him, though he would participate in it. We do see many commendable leadership traits by Lincoln. One such trait is his use of stories to communicate points. His use of appropriate humor to defused tense situations. His grace and teaching spirit. He gave one boy a pardon for laming his horse to avoid battle because “I don’t want to hang a boy for being frightened. What good would it be for him.”His meekness as president. His ability to accomplish goals by doing things himself. All of these traits are ones which are to be commended, and while he was not perfect, should be recognized for his strengths.

In addition to Lincoln and how he related to many aspects of the 13th amendment and family, I enjoyed the given perspective of the Civil War. Often slavery is wrongly portrayed as the main factor and basis for the Civil war, which is simply not True. The Vice President of the Confederate State of America said in the movie “You can’t take away our slaves and expect a complete surrender. You take away that and you destroy our economy. Our way of life. Our power. We won’t even know who we are anymore.” 

We are shown the civil was was not mainly about slavery, but about political power and economic security. I appreciated an accurate focus of the war, not twisted and warped into something it wasn’t.

The last thing I would like to note is the quality of the movie. The videography, the lighting, the costumes, the acting, the score…. All were masterfully done. I would have no issue believing Linclon was just like the man on the screen. His mannerisms, his voice, and action were all perfectly mimicked according to historical records. It was a treat to watch and see all of these artistic fields blended together to create the picture on screen.

Things I didn’t like

The main issue I take with this movie is the profanity. There is a lot of it. Dozens misuses of God’s name are said. D—, B—–, F—, and more are used by old men, soldiers, and some riled up congressmen. Even Lincoln dishes out an S— word for some crude humor.

The movie opens with a battle scene where “the Colored Union Soldiers” are fighting Confederates. It is raining, so water has collected in many places. We see men getting beat to death with rifles, stabbed in the stomach with bayonets, stomped to death and drowned… all in the course of around two minutes. While this is not at all enjoyable to watch. It is good to be reminded no battle is glorious or should be praised, especially in the instance of this war.

We are shown a cart dripping large amounts of blood being wheeled, then multiple amputated arms and legs dumped into a pit behind the hospital.

Near the end of the movie. Lincoln goes to the last battle ground in Virginia, and we are shown the aftermath of war. Dead corpses are shown everywhere in various forms of death. Some were ripped open, guts spilling out onto the muddy ground. Some had bayonets in the back. While others where in piles behind cover, piled on top of each other. With John William’s scoring, and Mr. Lincoln’s reaction, it was enough to make you sick and tear up at the same time.

Closing Thoughts

“You can know True North. When I was a surveyor, I would align my compass to true North, The compass points you true north but does not warn you of obstacles and swamps along the way. So while you can plow through people, ideals, and goals focused on True North, without looking at your surroundings, you can wind up stuck in the swamp….” 

Lincoln says to Thaddeus Stevens about Mr. Stevens unwavering principle on the black right to freedom, vote, and more. Lincoln illustrates how while we can know we are right about something, being obnoxious about it and plowing through people with the idea is not going to get you anywhere. It is also going to get you stuck with your idea and people will not want to listen to you. How does Mr. Stevens respond? Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out. 😉
This quote stuck in my mind, because I was instantly reminded of some Christians. You know of whom I speak. 😉 How important it is to remember while we are right in following Christ and God’s word it true, that we not become arrogant in such knowledge. That we remain as gentle as a dove, yet wise as a serpent when we witness with our actions, words, and life. The movie portrayed that concept excellently, and gave me a heart check and application to implement.

“Can we choose to be born? Are we fitted to the times we’re born into? We begin with equality, that’s the origin isn’t it? That’s justice. See we’ve shown that a people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere.” 

Another outstanding quote from Lincoln. He asks this to a young man, while sitting in the communication room, about to send a message to Grant. While an answer never is decided, the point is made… Are we in this place and time for a purpose? As Christians, we can answer a resounding “Yes”. This makes an excellent talking point for witnessing or starting conversations about life purpose, and I intend to use it as such.

All in all. This movie is like Lincoln himself. It stands tall and true on biblical principles, history, and showing what the Civil war truly was. However, problems (which Lincoln also had) need to be recognized and not excused. These are the language and quite gruesome scenes.
If we remember anything about Lincoln portrayed in this flick, it should be his indubitable spirit and wisdom in the time into which he was fitted. He saw and felt from his deepest conviction the 13th amendment was the the first step in solve to the nation’s problems about division and slavery. And he did what ever he felt within his power as president to do get that done.

When deciding to see this movie, I’ll close with Lincoln’s advice, as my wisdom in this is lacking. He said when making decisions…. “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.” 

Megamind

Perfection is hard to compete with.  No one knows that better than Megamind.  From the time he was a baby he has been trying to outdo his perfect fellow alien, Metro Man.  See, the two tykes came from different dying planets and landed on earth, but while Metro Man landed in the life of luxury, Megamind landed behind bars in a prison facility.

This isn’t where Mr. Perfect and the blue-skinned second best part ways, however.  Not only does the duo grow up together and attend the same school, constantly trying to outdo one another, but they take their rivalry far into adulthood— and into their professions.  Metro Man grows up strong, fast, and handsome; Megamind does not.  He’s blue, a beanpole, and he’s got massive cranial capacity to house his above average intelligence.  It’s like destiny has tied them together, and Metro Man always outshines Megamind.

So, since Metro Man has all the makings of a super hero, what does that leave Megamind with?  Well… villainy.  While it isn’t as glamorous as Metro Man’s job description, Megamind is determined that he’s going to become the smartest, badest, most capable villain ever!  When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

Thus Megamind and Minion (his, well, minion) go into the baddy business and spend their lives trying to one-up Metro Man and take away his ever present spotlight.  It appears, however, that Megamind and Metro Man are in a vicious cycle.  Bad guy schemes and steals girl (news anchor Roxanne who is rumored to be Metro Man’s girlfriend), hero comes to the rescue with his cape flapping in the wind, bad guy tries to trap hero, yet hero manages to be the best by the end of the day.  And by the end of the week.  And by the end of the year.  And by the end of- well, you get the picture.

Then one day the unthinkable happens.  Megamind wins!  Or does he?  Once Metro Man is finally out of the way, it seems like Megamind is out of a job.  How can you be a villain if there is no hero to battle against?  Well, this just cannot be tolerated.  Megamind must do something about his lack of employment and enjoyment.  So, the bulb-headed Einstein decides to put all his genius together and create a hero!

Heroism

Megamind’s characterization is what really makes this movie great.  From his witty one liners, his epic mispronunciations, and his soft-hearted attempts at being a villain, Megamind becomes endearing very quickly to the audience.  While it can be said that this blurs the lines between the good guy and the bad guy, this movie takes a surprising turn that makes a clear distinction between true heroes and true villains.

You see, Megamind isn’t really a bad guy.  He’s created himself to be a villain, yes, but he doesn’t really want to be that guy.  He wants to be loved, appreciated.  He’s just never really had that.  The problem is that Megamind has allowed society to dictate to him what he should be and who he should become.  Because he doesn’t look like a superhero, he obviously must be the villain.

As the plot plays out through the movie we begin to see Megamind changing.  His personality doesn’t really alter, but his though process and self perceptions do.  He begins to realize that it is a person’s actions that matter, not what they look like or what is expected of them.  By the end of the film, Megamind has learned that “Destiny is not the path that’s given to us, but the path that we choose for ourselves.”

Something that really stuck out to me about this movie was the fact that Megamind doesn’t just redeem himself by the end of the movie.  Instead of ending with his redemption, this movie goes a step further and shows Megamind actually apologizing and repenting of his past actions.  He works to restore a friendship and tells Metro City how sorry he is for the wrongs he has done.

Friendship and loyalty are central to the theme of this film, particularly between Megamind and his ever present best friend, Minion.  Minion has been with Megamind from the beginning and continues to stick with him through the hard and dry times.  Minion’s devotion and ability to see the real Megamind is endearing.

Megamind truly becomes a hero in this movie.  While Metro Man was Metro City’s golden boy, he never really had to put his life on the line and stick his neck out.  He was just good at everything.  Megamind, on the other hand, literally goes to great lengths in order to overthrow his hero/villain creation, to the point where he is willing to die for Roxanne and the City.

Villainy

Violence is always everyone’s first question when it comes to a superhero movie.  In this movie we have multiple super heroes and multiple villains (some of them switching sides during the course of the movie).  The super characters punch, kick, and blow stuff up, but all of it is within the confines of typical cartoon destruction.  However, the beginning of the film does start out with the destruction of a character that is reduced to skeletal remains by a sunray blaster.

Megamind likes his techno gadgets, so a lot of the destruction comes from weapons like the freeze-drying ray gun (which don’t actually kill people; it just reduces them to a small cube until they come in contact with water).  There are explosions and heat vision destruction, but nothing gruesome.  Although, there is the humorously named forget-me-stick, which is essentially a club used by Minion to knock people out.   Also worth mentioning is that in the beginning of the film Megamind is trying to help sell his villainy to the audience by pointing out things like his custom-made baby seal leather boots.

Perhaps the biggest negative element is the bumbling buffoon of a villain, Hal.  Hal used to be Roxanne’s lovesick camera man before accidentally being turned into MegaMind’s new superhero (he is given some of Metro Man’s DNA to accomplish this).  Hal exhibits villainy quite nicely for us, as well as demonstrating idiocy.  For example, in order to prove his invulnerability, Hal gives himself a “super wedgie”.  In addition, he also tries to make Roxanne fall in love with him by dropping her from a building and then rescuing her.

Other negative elements in the film is the song Highway to Hell, a line about the point of lying being that no one will find out, and a reference to “god-like” powers.  There is also a near death experience played up in the end of the film and Minion talks about Megamind’s parents smiling down from “evil heaven.”  Oh, and there is a glass of champagne shared by two character.  In addition our characters wear the typical skintight hero suites.  The attractive Roxanne has a few sculpted outfits, and Metro Man is seen in his bathrobe.

Language comes in the form of words like “Freakin” and “crap nuggets”.  There are a couple of uses of “good lord,” “god,” and “gosh”, which we could all live without.

 Conclusion

The film is fun, fresh, and original, often poking fun at some of the typical clichés that come with the hero genre.  There aren’t really any supersized problems, and the film avoided some of the toilet humor that can be present in DreamWorks pictures.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, which surprised me because I went into the film skeptical.  This movie offered a lot of laughs, especially for me as a writer, and had some good things to think about.  It challenged without cramming.  The true hero of the film was thoroughly enjoyable, perhaps more so because of his faults.  Megamind certainly lost his way in life, but in the end he has the courage and determination to replant his feet and say he’s sorry.

Kung Fu Panda 2

“You guys see that? It’s called being awesome.”

The big fat panda is at it again. This time, Po and the Furious Five must stop Shen, a commanding and revengeful peacock, from developing a weapon that can defeat even kung fu masters. But the battle gets personal when Po realizes Shen was there the night Po’s parents abandoned him as a baby. Po sets out to save the art of kung fu – and conquer his fears about his past.

When I heard Dreamworks had released a sequel to Kung Fu Panda – aptly named Kung Fu Panda 2 – I was optimistic. I enjoyed the first movie because of its clean content, but the story was shallow. I was hopeful that the sequel would have a deeper story while maintaining the clean bill of health.

Amazingly, that’s what I got. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a riot. I laughed for the first 2/3rds and cried for the last 1/3rd, all the while thoroughly enjoying the wild action sequences. The film won my heart and instantly found a place on my list of favorite movies. Here’s why.

The Good

The movie employs the overused premise of a child discovering they are adopted and setting out to find the truth about their past. I generally dislike such stories because of the bad light they cast on the adoptive parents. However, I felt this film handled it tactfully and wholesomely. Po comes to realize the beauty of adoption and the love he has for his adoptive father. His adoptive father is caring and supportive, and the two’s final scene is heartwarming.

Like its predecessor, this film has very low content. There is only a smattering of crude humor; there is no gritty language, immodesty, or romance. There is a lot of exaggerated action-violence, but it is not graphic. Even the bad guys show some restraint; when Shen orders his captain to shoot, the toughened wolf refuses because his own men are in the line of fire.

As an added treat, Kung Fu Panda 2 far surpasses the first film for artistic competence. The red-gold color scheme is rich, the Asian setting is vibrant, and the character design adds depth to the story by giving each character a strong visual presence. Of particular interest is the use of “cut paper” animation, a simplified style reminiscent of Asian art, that is mixed with the standard 3D modeling. To top it off, an evocative score brings out the emotion of the story.

The Bad

Like the original, Kung Fu Panda 2 features Asian-esque mysticism. The primary focus in this film is on “inner peace.” Kung fu master Shifu tells Po that once he achieves inner peace, he will be able to harness the energy of the universe. A meditative ritual accompanies this teaching. Po gains inner peace by [spoiler!] coming to terms with his past, and he is then able to use the meditative move to defeat Shen’s army.

In addition, there is some talk of destiny, although it is not as heavy as in the first film. A soothsayer is consulted a few times. Also, the yin-yang symbol appears fairly frequently. Thankfully, there is none of the accompanying theology; good defeats evil, rather than coming into “balance” with it.

While it is minor and perhaps unintentional, the film could be seen as having a message against the use of firearms. Shen takes his parents’ discovery of fireworks and uses the firepower to design weapons for evil purposes. Shifu tells Po that the weapons must be stopped or they will destroy the art of kung fu. While Shen’s use of the weaponry is despicable, it is worth noting that firearms are not necessarily inherently evil themselves. Whether such weaponry should have ever been developed is a complicated subject that might make an interesting discussion point after watching the movie.

In Conclusion

Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t perfect. The mysticism is something that needs to be approached with discernment. But, thankfully, that’s about the only element of this film I need to worry about. The rest of the journey is wild, vibrant, and clean; it’s just as fun as the first while being a great deal more emotionally engaging. Kung Fu Panda 2 found a place on my list of favorite movies, and if Dreamworks’ continues this trend, it’s likely their future films will also find a home on my shelf. I can’t wait to find out.

Kung Fu Panda

“There once was a legendary warrior whose legendary kung fu skills were the stuff of legends…”

From his humble noodle kitchen, chubby panda Po dreams of being a kung fu warrior. When he has a chance to see kung fu master Oogway chose the “Dragon Warrior,” Po will do anything to get a good view – including blasting over the wall on a chair strapped to fireworks. When his homemade rocket crashes into the middle of the arena, Po wakes up to find Oogway pointing at him. Oogway claims Po is destined to be the Dragon Warrior, but his successor Shifu is sure it’s a mistake. Shifu takes it upon himself to pummel the panda until he quits, but the return of China’s most feared enemy forces both master and student to reconsider. Can an overweight panda truly be the Dragon Warrior?

I’ll be the first to admit that Dreamwork’s Kung Fu Panda is a shallow movie. The loose storyline is predominately composed of exaggerated drama and unrealistic action sequences that revel in corny kung fu “awesomeness.” The characters have little depth, the story has no lasting morals, and the most iconic part of the animation is Shifu’s twitching ears. The movie is ridiculous and pointless – and that’s exactly why I like it. Read on for my reasoning.

The Legendary

Kung Fu Panda’s biggest plus is its clean bill of health. There is no romance and no immodesty, and the closest thing to language is one slang use of the word “suck.” The only spots are a few brief instances of fairly mild crude humor. The result is a great “harmlessly fun” movie; it’s one of my favorite films to watch when I need something “brainless.” I can have fun without worrying about being bombarded with objectionable content.

Po learns a fairly typical lesson of “be yourself.” While the main theme of the movie isn’t very strong or memorable, there are a few positive subthemes. It’s shown how everyone can succeed if they embrace the challenge, and true greatness doesn’t ultimately come from skill or any “secret powers.” Additionally, the authority of the kung fu masters is well-respected; even the greatest warriors fail when they go against their master’s wishes, while homely Po is able to succeed by dedicating himself to Shifu’s training.

While the animation and character design are solid but not particularly memorable, the music of the film is lively and fun, a unique cross of Western action music and Asian themes. The Chinese scenery and costume is also lovely.

The Wimpy

While it is to be expected with a movie based on kung fu, the violence of the film is worth mentioning. There is almost constant kung fu action, some of which involves vicious moves like smashing opponents through the sides of buildings. Ultimately, no one gets hurt or even draws blood; [spoiler!] the one death comes from a mystical move in which the enemy apparently vanishes in a wave of pure energy. While I do not find this exaggerated violence disturbing, it may be of concern for families with younger children.

The film also has a mystic overtone, which is not surprising given the Chinese setting. The characters practice some rituals reminiscent of Asian religions, and talk is made of harmony, inner peace, and similar concepts. However, no reference is made of gods or real-world religions, except for a brief appearance of a yin-yang symbol. The most religious aspect of the film is the emphasis on destiny; the characters stubbornly insist that it is the Dragon Warrior’s destiny to defeat the feared enemy, and no one else is allowed to even try.

While it is not the main theme of the movie, Po does argue with his father about his future. Po’s father insists that maintaining the noodle business is Po’s destiny, but Po ignores his father’s wishes by leaving the noodle cart behind when he goes to see the ceremony. Ultimately, however, it’s an accident that Po gets roped into kung fu, and his father stays out of the picture until the end, when he also embraces Po’s destiny.

And the winner is…

Where Kung Fu Panda lacks in substance, it makes up for with innocent fun. It’s a film I enjoy watching semi-frequently to keep me entertained while working on projects at my desk, and I appreciate that I can watch a fun movie without cringing over the content. While the mysticism needs to be recognized as false, the overall tone of the film is exaggeratedly playful. If you have a good sense of humor or just need an evening off, you might have fun with this one.

Just remember – Po’s not a big fat panda. He’s the big fat panda.

War Horse

It’s 1914 and Albert Narracott is a young man living on a farm in the beautiful English countryside. His father is an alcoholic which forces Albert and his mother to make the best decisions for their family. When Albert’s father decides to outbid everyone at an auction to purchase a horse that is beautiful and fast, but not at all suited for plowing, it starts to seem like the family will lose their farm and livelihood. Albert is resolved however that he can train the horse (which he names Joey) and fit him for work.

Despite the success that Albert’s hard work earns him, a flood ruins the family’s crop leaving the Narracott family with nothing. Well, nothing except Joey. Albert’s father sells Joey to a captain in the British military thus beginning Joey’s transformation into a war horse and his remarkable journey home.

The Good

War Horse was not a typical war film. Through showing everything through Joey’s experiences, the story remains less tainted than it would have been otherwise. This film does an incredible job showing family loyalty, determination, bravery, and kindness. In remaining neutral (Joey changes hands often and finds himself with both the English and German armies) War Horse beautifully shows the good found on both sides during the war while displaying the unfavorable as well.

The Bad

The MPAA rated this film PG13 for “intense sequences of war violence.”

This film contains some profanity, but the main thing to be wary of is the violence and tense family scenes. While visual battle wounds and blood are minimal, the fighting scenes are still extremely intense. Dead bodies are seen, but nothing gruesome. One scene contains a character being consumed by poison gas which can be frightening for some viewers. At one point in the film, a horse becomes badly ensnared in barbed wire and ends up bloody and battered. Besides that, the film has many scenes that depict the war and fighting was prevalent throughout.

As for disrespect and difficult family moments, the Narracott’s landlord is constantly belittling the Narracotts and Albert’s father in particular. In desperation, Albert’s father sells Joey and, even though Albert is respectful, it is obvious that he despises what his father has done. Two German soldiers go AWOL and the film portrays it in a rather positive way (although not entirely).

Albert’s father is a drunk, but it is shown in a very unfavorable way.

One character tells lies to the enemy who is raiding his home.

There is one scene when a young soldier asks his older brother about Italian woman and his brother simply replies that he is too young for them.

The Art

War Horse is riveting artistically. John Williams’ score is beautiful with a classical style. The score succeeds in capturing the spirit of the characters and its sweeping orchestral melodies are astounding. Williams did a brilliant job allowing us to taste the horrors, losses, and triumphs of war through music.

As for the cinematography; it’s some of the best I’ve seen. Spielberg’s directing and Janusz Kaminski’s lens work were beyond beautiful. Shots are taken from unique angles and the landscapes are full of rich and bright colors and are positively stunning. Every scene was a visual experience as it was constantly astounding how many new ways a camera could be used to tell a story or convey an emotion.

To conclude, War Horse was refreshing as a war film which was much more family friendly than most. Masterfully told, the story is one that people can relate to and the characters are real to us as their emotions are our emotions. Since we all experience fear, loss, hope, determination, failure, love, and friendship, we can all relate to War Horse in our own way.

I am Number Four

I Am Number Four PosterI Am Number Four is based off of a Sci-Fi thriller of the same name, and came out early last year.  After having the movie recommended to me, I decided to check it out.  The premise caught my fancy, story line looked interesting, and I liked the tone of the trailer.

The story starts out with Number Four, now John Smith, who isn’t a typical teen, not even on his home planet of Lorien.  He is one of nine legacies who were preserved by being sent to earth with their protectors, an effort to evade the Mogadorians who seek to kill them. Now, why do the Mogodarian’s want to kill these poor, innocent kids?

The Mogadorians want what every sci-fi villain wants. World domination.  However, their version has a twist. Decimation. They’ve travelled the galaxy seeking to lay waste to every colonization they can find. Lorien was their last victim; Earth is next. The only thing that stands in their way is the 9 legacies scattered across the globe. Together, they have enough power to stand against the Mogadorians.

Pursuit is unavoidable, so what did the Lorien families do? Place a “spell”, of sorts, on the kids. They must be killed in number order (mentioned, but never fully expounded in the movie, I only know this from the book research I did). Inconvenient for the Mogadorians, but a time buyer for the nine.

John and Henry (John’s protector) are first alerted to the presence of the Mogadorian’s when John is nine. A scar burned in the flesh of his leg appears, letting them know that number one has been killed. John and Henry leave everything and take on new identities. This happens again when John is twelve, and once again in high school. John is number four. He’s next.

This is how our movie opens, and from here the pace picks up drastically. As our Lorien duo try to stay one step ahead of death, they arrive at a quaint little town called Paradise, where Henry equips the house for World War Three and John decided to try and pick up the pieces of his life, again.

Henry wants John to lay low, blend in. That’s easier said than done in a high school setting. John downplays his strengths and abilities to the high school jocks who come to “feel him out”, but makes the mistake of becoming interested in the prince jock’s ex.

To make matters worse, John starts going through hormonal changes, i.e. developing legacies. New powers sound well and good, except for the fact that these changes are inconveniently timed.  Instead of typical voice changes, John has to learn to harness his mind wielding powers.

John quickly comes to love the people of the quaint little town of Paradise, deciding that this is the kind of people he wants to make his home with. Sarah’s family really hit this home to him; laughing over dinner, confiscating all cells, and conversing like they’ve know each other their whole lives. Something he’s not very familiar with. He’s never known his own family and never lived anywhere long enough to have roots.

But all of this loveliness is quickly shattered, and things spiral out of control. However, I’m not going to spoil the movie for you.

Redeeming Values

The themes of this movie are pretty evident. We must sacrifice for the things we love and believe in. Henry reminds John of this during one of their testosterone tussles. Countless Loriens sacrificed themselves to ensure that the nine would survive. Henry expects him to push to his full potential and give up young love for a greater good. John informs Henry that he’s not his father. The protector’s response?  “No, he’s dead. For you.”

While John vexes under this burden place upon him, he does come to accept it in the end.  He decides that Earth is worth saving, even if he has to leave Sarah(love interest) behind for a time.

Negative Impacts

While the movie is fun, lively, action packed, and has a new twist to the “Aliens save the world” theme, I Am Number Four does have issues.

Language is a big one. Sam, John’s ancient astronaut believing friend, has a foul mouth and uses way too many uses of langue to express his feelings for the world and the people in it. I stopped counting after 6 uses of the s word, and there were d, a, h, and b words mixed in there as well. There were also a handful of misuses of the Lord’s name.

Exposed flesh isn’t a huge issue in this movie. We have a couple of shots where John’s shirtless, but they are very short and very few between. Some cleavage is visible at times, but very tame for a Hollywood movie.  Especially action. However, in the beginning of the film, we have a beach party scene with plenty of bikini clad girls and ogling teen guys.

Romance is tame. Sarah and John genuinely care about each other and share two on screen kisses. Their relationship seems built on more than just teenage passion. There is also a couple depicted making out in the background of a scene.

The violence in the movie will be a big hindrance for most people. The movie had a dark undertone similar to the undercurrent of Lord of the Rings. Mogadorians get plenty of on screen violence, their lust to destroy, maim, and kill fuelling most of the violence in this film. In the first scene of the movie we see number three and his protector brutally killed.

Mogadorians also relish forcing a bladed ball down a man’s throat and watching it “play with him”. There is a reference to the police finding their mutilated bodies (not seen). These tattooed, gilled aliens also knock out a police officer, throw someone into a second-story window, and stab another man in the chest.

John packs quite a lot of Sci-Fi damage into his frame, too. He angrily hacks through Mogadorians, stabbing, slicing, shooting and blowing them up with many legacy gifts. John’s violence is tamped down by the fact that the Mogadorians turn into ash instead of bleeding like humans.

Two Lorian creatures engage in an intense battle, ending with one of them getting their throat ripped out after being stabbed several times by the other creature.

On the milder side of violence, John gets into a few fights at school, all three of which are in defence of someone else. The first time we see yet another display of the Jocks attacking Sam, the school underdog. John throws a football back at the jerks with superhuman ability, knocking one of the kids over. The second time, John goes a little further. When he and Sam have a cruel joke played on them, the Jocks once again give the angry Sam a shove. John removes Sam from the equation and invades Sarah’s ex’s space. Muscles flexing, he allows himself to back down for the sake of blending in. The final time Sarah and he are the targets of an attack, and John losses himself in rage, sending three of the kids to the hospital and almost breaking the arm of the quarterback. Sarah stops him, bringing him back to his senses.

Six is one of the most threatening forces in the whole movie. Armed to the teeth, Six has a bone to pick and a point to prove. She’s just as bad boned as the male legacies and has striven to advance in her training. She is a leather clad action hero with long blond hair, the attitude of a pit-bull, and an “I can do better” theme as her essence. She takes down several Mogadorians, shoots guns with red light beam cartridges, torches a bungalow, and looks down on John’s attachment to the sweet Sarah. Six also makes a slang reference to male and female anatomy after she forces John to hit her in order to recharge.

Other negative aspects of the film are a grotesque Halloweenish hayride filled with fake skewered heads, a chainsaw wielding massacreer, and a disgusting operation scene. To help John escape, someone from school steals a piece of evidence from the police and Sam chooses to run away from his guardian (not that we like the abusive stepfather).

Wrapping Things Up

All in all the movie was a fun ride, but the negative elements are pretty stacked up.  While it is not family friendly, mature audiences may enjoy the film.  It has some good themes, good acting, solid plot, and fun dialogue.  The negative elements, unfortunately, outweigh all of that. If violence does not bother you, then the only big issue with the film is the language. This is not a movie I regret seeing, but it is one I would caution certain viewer to carefully consider.

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