Ominous Cinema

The following puzzle comes from The Playful Brain:




"I recorded the titles of three popular movies, played them backward, and transcribed the resulting sounds.  For instance, the word CINEMA (s-i-n-uh-m-ah) backward becomes OMINOUS (ah-m-uh-n-i-s).  Can you figure out the original movie titles?  All the movies belong to the same genre."

Adapted from The Playful Brain, by Richard Restak and Scott Kim (Riverhead Books).


Ferris Bueller's Day Off - M3.4/E6

This movie frequently comes up as one of the great movies of the past (IMDB - 7.9 and Rotten Tomatoes - 80%), and I keep thinking that maybe by re-watching it I'd understand where those viewpoints come from.  Maybe not a lot of great movies came out of the 80's or maybe I'm just missing it all together.  I like movies that make me think, and maybe I'm not thinking along the right wavelengths as those who praise it; but if a movie requires too much thought, it's not worth my time.

By all means, the story was fun and entertaining, it made me think back to high school (a fairly positive time period for me), so it definitely served its purpose.  It would have been more enjoyable on VidAngel given the amount of language (particularly religious profanity) throughout the show.  Otherwise, for a high school comedy, it was fairly clean.

Ferris is almost an idol worshiped by everyone in the movie, except for his sister and Principal Rooney.  Eventually the sister gives in and the Principal pays for his lack of devotion.  Ferris' example to his friend Cameron could be seen as a bit controversial.  He gets him to break all sorts of rules in the name of living it up and their soon parting when they graduate from high school.  The majority of the comedy comes from this unrealistic gushing adoration for the carefree Ferris.  His sister decides to take his side only after having a make-out session with a druggie in the police department...maybe being stoned is contagious?


Ominous Cinema

The following puzzle comes from The Playful Brain:

E-CAR (1976)

LA HEENA (1977)

MUG SIR OAF (1994)

"I recorded the titles of three popular movies, played them backward, and transcribed the resulting sounds.  For instance, the word CINEMA (s-i-n-uh-m-ah) backward becomes OMINOUS (ah-m-uh-n-i-s).  Can you figure out the original movie titles?  All the movies belong to the same genre."

Adapted from The Playful Brain, by Richard Restak and Scott Kim (Riverhead Books).


John Wick (2014) - M0.0/E3

Somewhere I heard this was almost as much fun as watching the Matrix.  As much as I loved the first Matrix, this was nothing like it.  This is going to be very short.

The movie started off rather slow and I really wondered how the whole Keanu Reeves holding a gun was going to be relevant about 10 minutes into it.  A terrible tragedy happens, revenge takes hold, and everyone dies.  The end.

Don't waste your time.  VidAngel didn't help much here.  Sometimes bad movies are bad even without the swearing/violence/sex.  There was no redemptive value to watching this at all; it was just pure depressing.

If you want a more thorough review, check out ericdsnider.com.  He gave it a B+, and a lot of times I agree with his rating, but when there is no moral message, or even a negative morality to a film, it's very hard to find a reason to enjoy it.


Sicario (2015) - M5.8/E8

This was a very thought provoking movie.  One that can bring up some tense conversations from people on different sides of the political spectrum.   In essence, the government crosses some moral lines in order to maximize the saving of lives.  Is it ever OK to make such compromises?

While drawn from the train of science fiction and fantasy, two examples come to mind. In the book Ender's Game, the need to brutally and finally punish your enemies so that they can't seek out revenge on you is repeatedly brought up.  The following are some of the deepest lines of the novel and is an exchange that occurs between Ender and Valentine in chapter 13 of the book:
Ender: "In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them -"
Valentine: "You beat them." For a moment she was not afraid of his understanding.
Ender: "No, you don't understand. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don't exist."
Ender kills multiple boys and almost causes the genocide of an alien race.  The guilt he has to bear is insufferable. Is it OK to go so far too ensure the safety of oneself or one's family? One's country? Are the psychological, spiritual consequences worth it?

In Batman, we constantly see Batman's dilemma with confronting the Joker. If he's really such a violent criminal, shouldn't it be OK if Batman kills him?  Isn't he being irresponsible and contributing the deaths of so many by simply turning him over to the authorities?  The constant response is that if he did kill the Joker, how would he be any different from any criminals he has vowed to bring justice on?  Any different from the man who took his parents away from him?  The difference between willing to take someone's life for pleasure or to end it to ensure the lives of countless innocents that would otherwise die? There is a line that shouldn't be crossed, and it may be different for different individuals (a seemingly scapegoat statement). Otherwise, the world would be out of balance.

Was it for the benefit of the world that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed? Did it end up saving more lives in the end to end it so dramatically and brutally? Would doing so again send a similar message to similar, present-day antagonistic groups?  I don't know. I wish it were as easy as saying it's never worth it.  In the Bible, God commanded the demolishing of cities for the good of his people. Yet, on a smaller, family scale, beyond stern and occasional corporal punishment (hopefully infrequent and under control) for an out of control child, sometimes a parent has to wait out the craziness in love and patience. Granted not everyone should be treated as one's child, but it's worth thinking about, if anything, to keep us humane.

[Spoilers may follow...]

It's too easy to cross a line in the heat of emotion and give up your humanity.  In the end, the revenge killing of the man's family was wrong, but the overall operation would supposedly save so many lives.  Undoubtedly someone else would step in and re-initiate or continue the crimes committed by the drug lord.  But as also mentioned, this will continue (in part) as long as Americans use and crave illegal drugs.

Watched on VidAngel filtering out only f-words and blasphemy and it was still followable.  There are some graphic scenes of violence that could be filtered out without disturbing the storyline too much.



I really liked the way the movie depicted Noah receiving revelation from God. His dreams are clear enough for him to understand, but they aren’t as clear to us (though we know what they mean due to our familiarity with the story). He doesn’t get it all at once and it isn’t all clear to him all at once. He has to think on it and work it out in his mind and with those God has blessed him to better understand what it is he needs to do.

Contrary to many world standards and beliefs, the film comes out and equates happiness with being married and having children. The whole film circles around the importance of the family unit and the distress that comes with it breaking up, or not perpetuating.

[***Spoiler Alert...If you haven't seen it and plan to, don't read on (it's on Netflix streaming right now).***]

Two hours into the movie I was rather puzzled at how Noah’s raging lunacy was really tied into anything meaningful. It wasn’t until the conversation between Ila and Noah that everything fell perfectly into place. The movie had been quite the emotional roller coaster. Ham is torn from the possibility of having a family. Shem and Ila live under the cloud of the potential death of their child/children. Ham is on the verge of committing patricide. Ila gives birth to twins, which would satisfy the possibility of all of Noah’s sons having wives. Ila’s new born daughters are almost killed in her arms while crying, but she gets Noah to pause long enough for her to calm them so that they don’t die crying. Noah raises his dagger and almost follows through but can’t, kisses them and walks away.

Why put us through such a ride? How does this have anything to do with the traditional Bible story everyone is so familiar with? Throughout the film the theme of justice beat like drum, relentless and loud. It isn’t until the very end, when despair is about to win out, that the sweet melody of mercy softens the beat and lets us see how much the Creator loves us. The Creator gives us what we need to become like he is, the choices we have to make are difficult for a reason, but if faithful we will be guided to do that which is right. Before I go much further, let me present to you the conversation that tied everything together so beautifully, and without which the film would be so much more difficult to understand and probably wouldn’t have gained my approval.
Ila: “I have to know, why did you spare them?”
Noah: “When I looked down at those two little girls, all I had in my heart was love.”
Ila: “Then why are you alone, Noah? You’re separated from your family.”
Noah: “Because I failed Him [the Creator] and I failed all of you.”
Ila: “Did you? He chose you for a reason, Noah. He showed you the wickedness of man and knew you would not look away. But then you saw goodness too. The choice was put in your hands because he put it there. He asked you to decide if we were worth saving. And you chose mercy, you chose love. He has given us a second chance. Be a father, be a grandfather. Help us to do better this time, help us start again.”
Now the Bible says nothing of this choice that Noah was given, but is it that far fetched? Noah saw himself as human/weak/sinful as any of those who were left behind. He confesses that neither the Creator nor he sees himself as “good” but merely “someone who will complete the task.” Noah didn’t understand why the Creator had chosen his family to survive and the entire human race be destroyed. As good and humble of a man that he was, he was truly sorry for the fate of the world. I appreciated the depiction of the sorrow and guilt Noah felt for leaving so many of God’s children to such a death.

Noah was beginning to be at peace with the fate of his family (no perpetuation of the human race) knowing that their (and his) eventual death was not that far distant from that of all the people that were left behind to drown. God chose to save all the animals and Noah’s family, but as far as Noah knew, Ila was barren and so God really hadn’t intended for them to survive much beyond the flood. This weight on his soul was not lightened when he learned of Ila’s pregnancy, but weighed it down even more, due to the conclusion he had already arrived at and was trying to come to grips with. He is so distraught that he accuses his wife and grandfather of “undermining the Creator,” given their role in healing Ila’s barrenness.

After he thought he had failed in God’s eyes, he was lost in confusion and despair for his choice to let his granddaughters live. And then the dialog above occurs and light re-enters Noah’s soul. He chooses again, more resolutely and with peaceful assurance, to love and be with his family.

Noah was blinded so much by the weight of God’s justice that he didn’t recognize the full choice that he was given. He was so down about assisting in the death of the human race that he failed to see God’s merciful, outstretched hand to him and his family.

To be sure some things were exaggerated and changed to make a good story. But I found the story no less inspiring than what’s written in the scriptures*.

*The LDS religion has an additional book of scripture that adds some more information into the story of Noah that might make this a little more far-fetched (e.g., the Giants fought against Noah). However, as I’ve already mentioned several times, this is a good movie and goodness is there if you want to find it.


More on R-rated Movies and Mormons

I came across a recent article continuing the discussion of R-rated movies and LDS culture.  The comments are particularly insightful as to the reason for the discussion.  People believe that there was once a line drawn, but fail to understand the context of the comments.  In most cases it is better to love than to be right (modesty and entertainment choices particularly come to mind).  The author also makes some similar arguments that I presented in my earlier two-part post.

Some of the comments I made (visit the article if you want to better understand their context):
"You really have to take sites like kids-in-mind with a grain of salt. They just spout off anything that by itself would be considered offensive, they don't take into account the context of the "evil" being depicted in the movie. The Book of Mormon has plenty of violence that on it's own is deplorable and something I would want nothing to do with (rape, murder, cannibalism, adultery, etc.) but in context evil can teach us and drive us towards the light. That is why there must be an opposition in all things, we can't learn good without evil. Granted that doesn't mean we have to expose ourselves to evil to learn good, but media that accurately portrays evil and its consequences isn't evil in and of itself."
"I have a similar way of analyzing movies I've seen, and I think you just have to be smart with the ones you choose to watch. If it looks inspiring, it might be or might not be. If it isn't, the important part is that you recognize that it isn't (especially since you did some homework before and are OK with the content that will be presented). Even if you're partially inspired, but disgusted by something wrongly represented in the movie, it's important to recognize that and keep your discernment sharp. A healthy analysis (keeping a blog, reading reviews) will help sharpen one's ability to properly critique media in all its forms, and as a result be able to properly communicate its value to others."
"...movies aren't solely "entertainment." They are an art. The same guidelines for reading books, looking at art, listening to music goes for watching movies. Some people do just want entertainment and serious material isn't good for entertainment, so it's easy to draw a line. But for those looking for something deeper, your PG movies don't often have much to offer (there are some obvious exceptions). I think the Book of Mormon argument is somewhat valid, the "mature" content in the book is presented in context and shows proper consequences. We are supposed to learn from opposition (that includes opposition represented in media)."
"But also beware of the G and PG-rated movies that don't accurately portray evil. There's nothing to learn from movies that just share a gooey story of sunshine and rainbows. Movies and books can be great teaching sources for us as we learn to understand how to recognize evil, how certain actions produce certain consequences, etc. All media needs to be filtered or judged cautiously."
"[President Benson] was also directing this statement to the Aaronic Priesthood during a Priesthood session of conference. Don't forget the rest of the quote, "Don't see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic." Immoral, suggestive, or pornographic are what we are supposed to avoid, that is the filter we should apply to the media we entertain."


Family-friendly Halloween Favorites

If you're looking for a non-gory, family-friendly, Halloween movie, take a look at the following list of some of our favorites:

  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken - A goofy Don Knott's film, a definite classic.
  • It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! - Short and sweet, network classic.
  • The Corpse Bride - Not as good as Nightmare, but still fun.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas - Not many Halloween musicals out there, and this is top-notch.
  • Ernest Scared Stupid - Haven't actually seen this one, but my kids seemed to enjoy it - watch at your own risk.
  • Garfield's Halloween - Another short and sweet network classic.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace (on Netflix) - A great family comedy, one of our favorites.
  • Scared Stiff - a fun Martin and Lewis comedy.
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (on Netflix)- There are a number of A&C halloweeny movies, and this is the best (followed closely by Whodunnit)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - Not really a Halloween movie, but the climax and ending scene happen on Halloween, plus it's a great movie to watch anytime.


Extra! Extra! Read All About It!!

It's not really anything all that exciting.  I just plan on taking a break from this project for a time while other priorities take its place.  I probably won't stop watching movies and may even continue rating them, but won't spend time writing any reviews in the short term. 

So for the 3 or 4 of you who actually read this....until next time.


Hugo (2011) - M6.9/E6

One reason I was looking forward to seeing this film was the fact that there was quite a bipolar response to it.  Uncle Orson nay-said it, while other notable critics found it entertaining.  These types of responses are usually fairer to read beforehand, as they don't tend to bias one's opinion, therefore providing a more genuine response.  Though Card does have a negative review of the film, his points are well-made and I even agree with most of them, but still found a way to enjoy the movie overall.

In short, Card summarizes, "So the movie we were promised -- Hugo the orphan repairs a mechanical man to receive a message from his father -- turns into a movie we would never have paid to see: sad old forgotten movie director gets a round of applause."

The one character I actually hated and cringed at every time he came on screen was Sacha Baron Cohen playing a crippled policeman.  I probably won't choose to watch the movie again solely for him, though the fact that the movie was very slow might  also be cause enough.

The style of the movie reminded me a lot of Finding Neverland, and you might enjoy this film if you enjoyed Finding Neverland.  The music and scenery are amazing, and the story not terribly deep, but endearing.

We're shown the importance of family and the fruits of hard work as we see Hugo lose his father and then take us with him on his quest to remain connected to his father.  We also see him work tirelessly (without pay) to keep the clocks running in the train station, which keeps him out of more trouble than he already gets into, and allows him to stay a little closer to his deceased father.   Through Hugo's courage and intellect, he brings hope to a man who's dreams had been crushed and in turn gains the friendship and love for which he'd been longing.

Watch it if you're in the mood for something easy going, but I wouldn't recommend buying it; go for RedBox or you check it out from your local library.


Ominous Cinema

The following puzzle comes from The Playful Brain:




"I recorded the titles of three popular movies, played them backward, and transcribed the resulting sounds.  For instance, the word CINEMA (s-i-n-uh-m-ah) backward becomes OMINOUS (ah-m-uh-n-i-s).  Can you figure out the original movie titles?  All the movies belong to the same genre."


Netflix Instant Picks - 4/20/12

A few gems on Netflix worth watching:

Ghostbusters (1984) - I still need to see the second one (also on Netflix Instant) to gear up for the third one coming out later this year.  Bill Murray at his best.

Rango (2011) - While not recommended for young children, this movie is a blast that will keep you going.  Think Chinatown for a wider audience.

The Road to Bali (1952) - Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were a great comedy duo.  While part musical, they manage to keep the comedy throughout the music to keep you engaged.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) - One of my all-time favorite Cary Grant movies.  You get to see him out of his suave, debonair shell and see him as kooky as in Bringing Up Baby!  This is a must see classic comedy.  Chaaaaaaaarge!


A few I haven't seen yet, but am anxious to check out:
  • The Hustler
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
  • The Kite Runner
  • Monkey Business
  • Henry V
  • My Man Godfrey


Rango (2011) - M7.4/E8

I almost didn't see this movie.  The only reason I ended up seeing it (and so soon) is that it is currently on Nexflix Instant!  I'm glad I saw it too.  Despite the negative reviews from others (including Uncle Orson), I really enjoyed this movie, though would not recommend it for young kids, even though it is an animated PG-rated film (again, no thanks to the MPAA for consistency).

[Slight Tangent: How do movies like Kung Fu Panda, Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, and Tangled get mixed up with movies like Rango and Shrek (1,2,3,4) - all rated PG?  Well, for one, there's never a clear line between one rating and another other than the types of swear words allowed, and that seems to be it. (I know Shrek didn't have much, if any, swearing; but the bathroom humor and off-color jokes were rampant).]

Rango has it's fair share of swearing for a PG-rated animated flick as well as some inappropriate comments for younger kids; but for those of us desensitized or mature enough, there's plenty to enjoy.  The number one thing I loved about Rango was the musical score provided by the mariachi owls.  I just might go out and buy the soundtrack.  It's not filled with popular music, but a vivid latin/mariachi sound that really draws you into the story and brings you right a long for the "riiiiidde".

I struggle with writing about the morality of movies.  People don't go to a movie to be educated or morally uplifted, they go to be entertained.  Hopefully the people that actually read my posts are looking for more than entertainment, but are actually looking for ways to deepen their movie watching experience.

There's a big difference in being entertained by a sporting event or the circus and watching a movie or reading a book.  The latter two have a lot of power to influence our lives for good or bad.  The spectrum of evil and good in these media is so much greater than in any other venue for entertainment.  This spectrum of Good and Evil is necessary to help us learn, it provides a laboratory where our thoughts can see the consequences of good/evil without us actually experiencing the consequences (providing the director/screen writer/author are competent enough to do this).

So, back from another tangent, there were a few quotes that really helped the movie make a lot of sense in my mind and really brought the "ride" to a point.  Of course, it all comes when Rango has hit bottom; he's been revealed for who he really is, just a lonely lizard who never had any real friends and not a gun toting sheriff.  He finally meets the Spirit of the West and is taught some important lessons that are not just trite platitudes, but really bring all the events of the story together.

The alabaster-carriage-driving Spirit says to Rango, "No man can walk out of his own story."  Rango's experience in Dirt wasn't an imaginative experience, even though he was acting the majority of the time he was there.  His actions and confidence touched real people and made real differences, it wasn't just one of his plays he rehearsed back in his lonely terrarium.  He needed to realize that.

Secondly, Rango's told that the people saw what they needed to see.  They needed a hero, so that's what they saw in Rango.  He filled that part well, even if he didn't believe he was a hero from the start.  Sometimes we need to get outside ourselves and be there for people in need.  When we stop lamenting about how pointless our life is and try in some measure to fill the voids in others' lives, we actually become somebody. (I'll have to watch the movie again to figure out exactly what was said and to whom it was said, but I think this covers the gist of it).

Last word, check it out, you might enjoy it.


The Hunger Games (2012) - M6.0/E7

I had been wanting to read the book, and had even checked out the audio book from the library, but it ended up being badly scratched about 20 minutes into the book, and I never got a chance to give it another go; and now, having seen it, I probably won't be reading it. I dislike it when good movies are made about good books. Reading one or watching the other will always make it less desirable to watch or read it after having done the other.

I really enjoyed the movie. It was suspenseful, had decent character development, and the choices the characters made and the situations the characters were placed in were realistic (serious injuries actually hurt and debilitated the victims instead of being played off as "merely flesh wounds").

One particularly interesting and thought provoking part of the movie was a short dialog on how hope was the reason that the orchestrators of the Hunger Games needed to produce a winner. Basically, a very small amount of hope was necessary to keep the people in the various districts in submission; no hope or abounding hope would give cause for rebellion. The irony in this thought is that hope can only be diminished or controlled if the people submit to fear. So, weak people would be affected by imposed fear, but the strong ones (the ones that need watching) will let their hope drown out their fears.

We also see Katniss and a few other competitors as compassionate human beings, while other competitors were more selfish and animal-like in their quest for survival. Even though the selfish group banded together and hunted the others, in the end it was the more compassionate competitors that won. While not always the case in real life, where compassion doesn't always win, it does show that compassion brings happiness, while selfishness brings sadness and destruction.

There is quite a bit of violence, some language, and little to no sex/nudity. Being how violence is one of the main themes of the movie, they do an excellent job of filming violent scenes without overwhelming the audience with blood and gore (which would have resulted in a more severe MPAA rating). There are some instances where the filming could cause some strain on eyes (particularly when there should be no extraneous camera motion).


Gosford Park (2001) - M1.6/E3

Do you remember the days of walking up and down the seemingly endless aisles of DVD/VHS cases at your neighborhood Blockbuster or Hollywood Video?  Was there ever a movie cover that intrigued you, but never enough for you to pick it up off the shelf to find out what it was about?  Maybe this is just a weird occurrence, but I remember my eyes always lingering a little longer on the cover of Gosford Park.  Granted, the movie is only 11 years old, but the red, black, and white colors, and storyline of a murder/mystery dinner party sounded fun (if only because of my fond memories of the movie Clue).

The real reason for not picking it up, probably had to do with the movie's rating; but I've realized that as much as I immerse myself in what type of content is in what type of movie, my intuition is pretty good when it comes to knowing how much questionable content is in a given movie and where the MPAA doesn't really help.  I was right on this one; I was more offended with the content of the PG-13-rated Transformers 2 than I was with the content of this movie.

Netflix now has Gosford Park available to watch instantly, which made it a lot easier to just throw on.  I'll admit that I was tired when I watched this, so take that into consideration when you read what follows.

I waited and waited for something to happen.  When it finally did, three-quarters (maybe two-thirds) of the way through, it was underwhelming.  The reveal at the end of the story was interesting only in the slightest (enough for me to not rate this a 1 for Entertainment).  I wouldn't call this show a murder/mystery, but more like a murder/drama.  There's nothing mysterious about it.  A lot of the plot summaries I read also credited it with bein witty or funny, but that also was not the case.

What tipped my remote to push play was a statement in one of Uncle Orson's latest reviews regarding a reflection on previous Oscar nominees,
"That year the astonishingly good Gosford Park was nominated -- Robert Altman at his best, with brilliant performances from top to bottom of the cast."

I realize I haven't said a whole lot about the movie, but there really isn't much to be said.  There were a lot of characters introduced, while only a handful mattered.  The overall cinematography and flow of the story was well done, but the execution and carry through of the plot was horrible.*  Maybe if I were to watch it again when I knew what I was watching and when I was in the mood to watch it, I might enjoy it and give it a better rating; but I don't see that happening any time soon.  There are too many better movies to spend my (and your) time watching.

The only coarse language comes from an American (a bit ironic), and there's some non-graphic bed/table relations that give the movie it's rating.

*Please bear with my lack of good movie critiquing terminology.  I've got materials to better educate me, but have not had time to delve into them yet (nor will I in the near future).  However, also understand that I feel quite confident in my ability to critique a movie's moral value, which is the main point of this site.


Ominous Cinema

The following puzzle comes from The Playful Brain:

SEE RUG (1978)

TOE BOESH (1936)

ARAB BACK (1972)

"I recorded the titles of three popular movies, played them backward, and transcribed the resulting sounds.  For instance, the word CINEMA (s-i-n-uh-m-ah) backward becomes OMINOUS (ah-m-uh-n-i-s).  Can you figure out the original movie titles?  All the movies belong to the same genre."


The Lorax (2012) - M3/E5

I tried to go into this movie with no expectations, though I had read what the general response was from the critics.  I knew it was a movie about caring for the environment, but still remembered loving the story growing up.  After getting through 10 minutes of commercials and 25 minutes of trailers (with my daughter asking me each time a new trailer came up if it was the movie actually starting), the movie finally started, and I was hopeful.

It ended up being far from great, and will more than likely just disappear from my memory as a rather uneventful experience.  The movie was a fun kids show, lots of colors, and fun creatures; but the songs were less than memorable and the characters were not very interesting or deep, and the villain was completely annoying.  Why is it supposed to be funny to cast the villain as a mean, angry, short person? (My kids loved it, so I guess that's what they were going for.)

We are taught the same lesson that the book and the earlier animated feature teach us, that "unless" we take action and defend the trees, no one else can or will.  A much stronger moral (and the one my wife remembered from the book) was that "unless" we do something ourselves, we can't ever expect anything to get done - not only with respect to caring for the environment, but in every aspect of our lives.  Carpe diem!  Act now!

[Spoiler Alert]

The movie ends on a silly, corny, but positive note.  A movie suggesting action, is often better without offering a resolution (like what we're given in the original book/movie); giving the reader/viewer the opportunity to decide for him/herself what actions they need to take.  Instead we're given a crazy chase with the angry, tiny man trying to destroy the last truffula seed and the townsfolk changing their disdain for the boy with the seed to disdain for the tiny, angry man when they see what he's hidden from them (a dark and dreary wasteland).

Wait for this to come out on DVD to see it, and you will probably only enjoy it if you have small kids that you can watch it with.


The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) - M6.2/E8

I haven’t read any Michael Connelly books, but I’m guessing they fit right in there with Grisham’s best legal thrillers (of which I’ve only seen the movies). This was a well done movie and even more enjoyable as I’m just being introduced to the TV series the Firm (even sharing Josh Lucas with this movie).

I’ve always wondered about defence attorneys. How can someone defend a person who has committed awful crimes? This show made me remember (along with the Firm) that we believe in innocence before proven guilty. That proof is offered in court and often decided by a jury. Even the alleged criminal deserves justice, and shouldn’t be labelled a criminal until decided in a court of law. (It could be argued that not all criminals are caught, and thus not “alleged,” but that’s not the point of this short insight.)

We tend to sympathize with the victims of crimes, which can easily cause us to demonize those who defend their aggressors. But I like the thought that everyone deserves a fair trial. Our justice system was created with the thought of “innocent before proven guilty.” Which is why, for example, it’s unlawful to target American citizens for assassination without a fair trial. Our laws and justice system aren’t meant to prevent bad things from happening, it is a reactive system. If we want dangerous people off the street, we need to figure out lawful ways to bring them to justice and prevent them from pursuing more evil.

Back to the movie, Mick Haller isn’t the noble lawyer that Mitch McDeere is in The Firm, but his nobility does shine through his sleaziness as he gets entwined in his new client’s case. When what he values most is in danger (his and his family’s lives) he straightens up and is able to put evil in its place. His gratitude shines through as he offers to work pro bono for one of his shadier frequented clients who’s team of motorcycle buddies do Mick a huge favor. The resolution may not come as much of a surprise, but it’s the journey, not the end results that make the movie a fun, worthwhile experience.

Mick and his wife appear to be separated, though not totally distant.  However, all that they end up going through and Mick realizing how much he loves his family, makes it possible to believe that they'll try harder to make things work.  This isn't really a main point of the movie, but another good thought that adds to its value.

Do be aware that there is some strong language and a few scenes of violence, but the overall content is extremely mild considering the rating this show received.


Netflix Instant Picks - 3/13/12

The African Queen (1951) - A classic, must-see, Bogart/Hepburn movie.

How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) (1967) - This is one of my all-time favorite comedies and favorite musicals.  I fell in love with this back in high school (and wouldn't recommend it for anyone any younger).

The Secret of Kells (2009) - This is an amazingly well done (different) animated feature.  The story was intriguing, though a little scary for really young kids.

The Iron Giant (1999) - This is another great animated feature that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Peter and the Wolf (2006) - This is a short one, but a great, stop-motion adaptation of the story (and probably makes your kids smarter for listening to Prokofiev's beautiful score).


Chronicle (2012) - M6.8/E7

This is a story about three high school teens who gain telekinetic powers. As they attempt to strengthen and control them, they soon realize that having special powers doesn’t really change who you are, it doesn’t make you popular or likeable; and in some instances can amplify your true feelings.

This was a cool movie. Even though it was purely filmed by a hand camera, it was not headache nor nausea inducing. While it did get a little annoying that they had to keep reminding us why everything was being videotaped, it made the story more real (even though it’s based on some fantastical events). The filming wasn’t the only thing that made it feel real, the acting and interactions of the main characters was really believable. That being said, I didn’t feel as fulfilled or entertained as I did after watching something like Mission Impossible 4, where you have a well polished, produced movie with outstanding special effects, that was meant to take you away from reality into a fictional realm.

I think I enjoyed the first hour or so of the movie the best. We see the boys just recognizing and experimenting with their powers. Each new surprise is a surprise to us, and makes it feel like we’re there sharing their experience with them. The pranks they pull are pretty funny, too.

Andrew’s character was the most intricate one in the film. We understand his pains, not necessarily because his pains are common, but because we’ve come in contact or can remember someone just like him from high school. One scene that really made sense, but at the same time was really frustrating was when Andrew gets after Steve for being his friend only because they now have something in common. Why else would you be a friend with anyone? Andrew is very self-deprecating and wants people to like him for who he his, not because they have something in common with him or because of some freak accident.

His dad (step-dad?) is constantly berating him and telling him what a loser he is, and it’s almost as if Andrew accepts that as his reality and any attempt at others to genuinely care for him is seen as merely fake.

We all have a desire to be loved, and not loved out of pity, but because others value who we are intrinsically in spite of/because of our many faults and weaknesses.

Due to the filming style, this show may not be for everyone, but we really enjoyed it. There is quite a bit of language, some violence, and talk about sex, but no nudity or explicit sexual scenes (contrary to what the trailer shows).