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Monday, December 29, 2014

Unbroken brings Hillenbrand's best-selling book to the big screen

 Another best-selling book comes to the big screen this holiday season with the movie   Unbroken

Below is my movie review blog post for this amazing story.

PG-13, 2 hours 17 minutes

Grade:  B+

In a Nutshell:  This is an inspiring, true story that features the strength of the human spirit against all odds.  Director Angelina Jolie was so taken with Lauren Hillenbrand’s best-selling novel, that she felt compelled to bring it to the big screen.  The story is fascinating, but the viewing is exhausting and heart-wrenching.

Uplifting Theme:
·         The end of the movie reminds us that “the way forward is not revenge, but forgiveness.”
·         “If you can take it, you can make it.” – Louis’ brother, Pete

Things I liked:
·         The main actors dieted for months to appear as their characters would have looked after surviving 47 harrowing days on a raft in the oceanThey lost even more weight in the prisoner of war camps.  That’s dedicated acting.
·         The casting was very good.  Young Louis looked just like the older Louis.
·         The audience laughed when the starving soldiers on the raft punched a fish and a shark in order to eat them.  There were a few moments of subtle humor, but otherwise, this film is extremely sobering.  It should make you hesitate before complaining about anything again.
·         The cinematography of Roger Deakins (True Grit and Skyfall ) is very well done. Some of the vistas were extraordinary.
·         I always appreciate it at the end of a true story when the audience is shown how things ended up years later.
·         Jack O’Connell (Louis Zamperini) did an outstanding job.  Takamasa Ishihara was so believably cruel as Watanabe that the audience cringed every time he appeared on the screen.

Things I didn’t like:
·         The film is pretty long and your heart can’t take much more.  You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut, although your spirit soars with hope as you watch Louis stand up each time he falls. Angelina Jolie chooses to spend 2 hours focusing on how Louis was tortured in various ways and very little time showing us more about his character development.
·         I’m sad that the real Louis Zamperini died right before the movie came out.  What an amazing man he was.  I’m especially impressed that he returned to Japan to face his tormentors and forgive them.
·         As inspiring as the story is, there should have been more powerful and emotional moments in the telling.

Inspiring lines:
·         “A moment of pan is worth a lifetime of glory.” – Pete
·         “Here’s the plan…you go on living the best you can and try to have some fun along the way. – Phil
·         “We beat them by making it to the end of the war alive.” – Blackie
·         “It is necessary to have respect.  No respect, no order.” - Watanabe
·         “I’m glad it’s you. “ – Phil
“I’m glad it’s me too.” - Louis

Tips for Parents:  There are intense sequences of brutality and violence, as well as some charred bodies in one scene in particular.  There is some profanity, but not much, especially considering this is a war movie.  People used to call Italian immigrants WASPS and DAGOS.  After the movie, you can talk to your kids about bullying and name calling.

To learn more about the amazing life of Louis Zamerini, check out the following items:


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Night at the Museum 3 ends the trilogy with a laugh and a tear

The weather is cold and perfect for snuggling up to a good book or watching a fun flick with the family!  Here's one of my movie reviews from my blog Movie Review Maven!

Movie:  Night at the Museum 3
PG, 1 hour 30 minutes

Grade: B

In a Nutshell:  If you’re a fan of this edutainment franchise, you’ll enjoy seeing some of your favorite characters again, as well as meeting a few new ones, including a Neanderthal that looks like Larry Daley (Ben Stiller)  and Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey Season 1-3 ).  We get to visit the famous British Museum while slapsticking our way through calculated goofy moments and funny lines.

The door is always open for another sequel, but it also feels like the dust may settle on this one as an appropriate and fond farewell.  There are a few touching moments and enough humorous ones to keep the entire family entertained.

Uplifting Theme:
·         Be careful or the magic might die.  (Is that a lesson that the new writers learned while writing this?)
   *  Family is who you surround yourself with.
   *  Enjoy every moment of life.
Things I liked:
·         It was wonderful seeing Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt again.  We miss you.  Before the credits rolled at the end, the screen displayed the words “In loving memory of Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams.  Magic never dies.”  Sweet.
·         I also loved seeing Dick Van Dyke.  He’s still got moves!
·         Hugh Jackman makes a cameo performance, playing himself.  Ben Stiller's character runs past him and says “I just want to say, you’re the whole package.”
·         The star constellation performance was super cool.   "Of course they're special effects!  How could they not be special effects?"   (Dr. McPhee)
·         Capuchin on silks.  Ha ha
·         I thought the research librarian was hilarious.   “Oo la la.”
·         Great aerial views of London.  I’m going there next June with the fam!
·         Ricky Gervais does a great job playing the quirky Dr. McPhee.  The comedic timing during his awkward moments scene with Larry was fantastic.
·         Nick Daley is almost all grown up now. Skyler Gisondo has some great natural talent.  You might have seen him in The Amazing Spider-Man ; The Amazing Spider-Man 2 , as well asHalloween .  I'd like to see more of him.
  .    Rebel Wilson as Tilly the British Museum security guard was hilarious and should have been used more.
Things I didn’t like:
·         Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan) don’t have the same magical spark they did in the first installment of this trilogy, but they were still cute.
      I would have liked to see more exhibits and characters in the British museum come to life.  There were so many more ways the movie could have poked fun at our beloved Britts.
Funny lines:
·         “Who would have ever thought…I’m wax and she’s polyurethane, but it works.” – Teddy Roosevelt
·         “Summon the apparatus!” – Octavius
·         “I don’t know what’s come over me, but I like it.” – Jedediah
·         “You’ll rue the day you mocked us with your hypnotic blue eyes.” – Octavius
·         “Keep the scrunchies.”  - Tilly
·         “You can’t catch light.  It’s as evasive as human happiness.”  - Jedediah as he watches YouTube videos of kittens chase a flashlight.
·         “My boyfriend says he doesn’t like the way I do my hair.  He says it looks like a golden poo.” – Tilly
·         “With their size, they’ll bake like tiny, little scarabs in the Egyptian desert.  Too dark?” –  Rami Malek

Interesting things:
·         The investor guy with glasses in the beginning of the movie looked like the bad guy in Indiana Jones' Raiders of the Lost Ark. He says “I can’t help but feeling we’re making a terrible mistake.”   The Indiana Jones character in this movie then says “We’re not making a mistake; we’re making history.”
·         You don’t need to stay until the end of the credits.  There are a few clips of the crew dancing, but nothing else shows once the credits begin rolling.
Tips for Parents:

·         Octavius makes several odd homosexual innuendos about Sir Lancelot.

In case you missed the first 2 installments, check them out here for cheap!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings doesn't inspire

I usually leave this blog to talk about writing and books, but every now and then I share one of posts from my movie review blog: Movie Review Maven.   Here's my latest:

Movie:  Exodus: Gods and Kings
PG-13, 2 hours 22 minutes

Grade: C for Could have been so much better

In a Nutshell:  

Don’t “let your people go” and waste their hard-earned money on this.  How can a movie full of attacking alligators, oozing boils, and fighting Egyptian armies be so bland?  But it is.  While full of action scenes, impressively grand scope, and vivid imagery, the movie lacks heart, soul, and inspiration.  It's so disappointing, especially because it had all of the tools to make for a great movie, but sadly, it misses the mark.

Director Ridley Scott is fantastic at creating “sword and sandal” 
battle sequences, but I wish he had consulted some faithful Jews, Muslims and Christians who are passionate about the story behind the action.  He seems to have studied the general story line, but not the  source of the source material, if you know what I mean.

One of my biggest gripes is that Moses, God’s prophet, is clueless and faithless most of the time in this film.  Apparently, God is a bratty child who throws tantrums and wants revenge.  That’s not how I picture either of them.   If you want to see a REALLY great movie about the Biblical Exodus story, revisit Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments .”   Better yet, read the book.  It's always better and it's pretty popular this time of year...

Uplifting theme: 

*  God will save you after 400 years of slavery.   (wink)   Sadly, this movie depicts a vengeful god, rather than a loving one.

Things I liked:
  • ·         The CGI and 3D immersion techniques were stunning. 
  • ·         There was a lot of rich texture the fabrics, architecture, landscape, clothing, and faces.
  • ·         Joel Edgerton was a convincing Ramses, but I wish Oscar-winning script writer Steve Zaillian had given him more meaningful and layered internal motivation than just revenge.  Joel must have gained weight during the filming, because practically every time we see him as Ramses, he’s eating something.  ha ha
  • ·         I wanted to laugh when I first saw comedic actor John Turturro as Seti, Ramses’ father, but I was pleasantly surprised at the mature elegance with which he played the part.
  • ·         I’m always happy to see Ben Kingsley in anything.  It’s too bad he didn’t have much to do or say.
  • ·         Some of the movie was filmed in Spain.  I lived in Spain for 2 years, so that wins it some points.  The landscapes and aerial vistas were truly awesome.
  • ·         Ridley Scott is 77 years old!  Wow!
  • ·         The musical score was sweeping and fitting.
  •        I really like the subtitle: "Gods and Kings."  It also seems sweeping and fitting.  Ridley Scott said he picked it because the title "Exodus" was already taken.

Things I didn’t like:

  • ·          It’s a bit slow-moving in parts.
  • ·         The parting of the Red Sea wasn’t as dramatic as it was in The Ten Commandments , but the gigantic, crashing waves were.
  • ·         I wanted to see more faces of the Children of Israel.  They were treated en masse, so the audience never felt emotionally invested in their personal stories and everything felt very one dimensional.
  • ·         Many are criticizing Ridley Scott’s casting decisions that did not include Middle-Eastern looking actors.  He recently told Variety magazine “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
  • ·         The ending was anti-climactic.  Bland.
  • ·         At least this movie wasn’t as terrible as Hollywood’s attempt at Noah.  Read why I hated that movie so much. 

Did you notice?
  • ·         Christian Bale seemed to dig a little deeper than he did in his role as the monotone Batman Begins .  The spot in his mustache where he can’t grow hair was a bit distracting for me.  Was I that bored that I noticed such a small thing?  Did you notice his curly-toed sandals?
  • ·         Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad: Season 1
  • ·         All of the actors attempted a British accent, except Sigourney Weaver.  It reminded me of the Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where he didn’t even try.
  • ·         The beautiful Indira Varma from the pornographic Game of Thrones: Season 1 plays Miriam, Moses’ wife.  Their scenes together are the only ones that come close to feeling any emotion.
  • ·         Ben Mendelsohn from The Place Beyond The Pines

Interesting lines:
  • ·         “You can tell a lot about somebody by looking him in the eyes.” – Moses
  • ·         “The leader will be saved and the savior will lead.” – Sefora
  • ·         “A little venom in your blood is a good thing.  It makes you less vulneravble to the next bite.” – Ramses
  • ·         “The men who want power are the best fit to acquire it and the least fit to use it.” – Ramses
  • ·         “You have honored me with your trust.  Now I honor you with my faith.”  - Moses

Tips for Parents:

·         Children will get bored in parts, but they may be frightened by bodies being burned and hanged.  There is a lot of fighting, violence, and scenes with disturbing plagues that might also scare your kids...vengeance is a messy thing.

Now, if you want to learn more about the story behind the action, check out some of these:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New tax terms for authors and publishers

Here's the latest video from one of my publishers.  Jim McGovern created Big World Network and does a great job giving viewers the latest scoop on what's been happening in the industry.