Tuesday, January 31, 2012

War Horse - Enjoyable Tearjerker, But Not For the Young

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence
146 min
Starring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson

I chose to review War Horse because my eleven-year-old daughter had recently read the book and raved about it. She has been hounding me to read it so we could talk about the book. Needless to say, when I asked her if she’d like to go watch the movie, she agreed enthusiastically.

War Horse is based on the book with the same title by Michael Morpurgo. The story follows the life of “Joey”, a thoroughbred horse, who was purchased by a farmer instead of a plow horse. The farmer’s son, Albert, forms a strong bond with the horse until the crops fail and his father has to sell the horse to the British cavalry during World War I. The horse has many obstacles to face but the biggest challenge is for him to somehow return to Albert. “After all they have been through will Albert and Joey return home together?” (IMDb)

It was my intention to take only my eleven-year-old, but the four-year-old was quite put out that I might not include her in our excursion. Let me just say, the movie was not for her age group and I should have left her home with my husband and two-year-old despite the crying fit that was sure to happen.

This movie did not have any foul language that I noticed but the PG-13 rating for intense sequences of war violence was very appropriate. They were too intense for the younger of the two girls and may be so for older children as well. If my eleven-year-old had not already read the book I think some of the scenes might have been a bit much for her.

Regardless of the four-year-olds reaction, my older daughter and I enjoyed the movie. War Horse is a definite tearjerker and wouldn’t be one I’d recommend for a light afternoon, but it was a great story and very well done. All the differences between the book and the movie were explained to me in great detail on the drive home and I will say that I would probably prefer the book to the movie. Yet, I’m not sorry we took the time and spent the money to see this flick.

Reviewed by JC Phelps

Monday, January 30, 2012

Beauty and the Beast 3D - Fun, But "A Little Scary"

Rated G
84 minutes
Starring Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach

My daughter is a princess and mermaid freak. Maybe she got it from me, maybe from Hollywood; regardless, her bathtub is full of mermaids and most of the books she finds at the library involve royalty. That being said, I thought she would jump at the chance to see Beauty and the Beast 3D. “Nah,” she said. I began to present my case over the next few days reminding her that she loves the music (we listen to Disney movie music endlessly on CD in the car) and that we haven’t seen all of the movie previously. We had rented it, but never finished it and her response to this was “but, I know what happens in the end.” Then, I begged. “Mommy really, really wants to see it.” Finally, I announced that we were going to see it the following morning, and that was that. What good is Mommy Power if you can’t wield it sometimes?

Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated movie nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. That same year, 1991, it won the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy. Bravo! I say. Ultimately, it’s a love story and it results in a very satisfactory HEA (happy ever after).

Without discussing and analyzing the whole structure of the ratings system, it seems that this movie should not be a G rating. My five-year-old was very frightened when the wolves attacked Belle’s father who gets lost in the woods. He goes to the Beast’s castle for help and is imprisoned! The Beast was first introduced as menacing and cruel, and he roars a lot very loudly. My daughter said she wanted to hide her eyes and her ears. When I asked for her opinion after we left the theater she said, “It was a little scary.” She was also sad at the end when the Beast is hurt and it looks like he’s not going to make it. These two issues make me believe that an older audience was more appropriate for this film.

However! She loved the music, Chip, the little teacup, and the battle between the magical household objects and the villagers. She beamed when Belle pulled the Beast into the ballroom for the Big Dance to the film’s most famous Academy Award-winning song.

I can’t say that the 3D aspect enhanced the film very much. My girl had her glasses off for most of the movie. The 3D effect looked one-dimensional like some very colorful puppet show.

Side note here on the 3D craze: I wasn’t totally in that camp. Yes, I saw Avatar and loved it, but it seems that Hollywood was just trying to get back some of those box office receipts that they may have lost to DVDs, cable, streaming and the like. But, after watching the previews (in 3D) and seeing Star Wars: Phantom Menace and Finding Nemo coming out this year, I am willing to plunk down the extra dollars to have that experience. I’m a movie lover, after all.

Reviewed by Beth Balberchak

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dolphin Tale - Heartwarming Entertainment

Rated PG (for mild thematic elements)
113 Minutes
Starring Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman

I viewed Dolphin Tale with my thirteen year-old daughter via on-demand cable programming.

Let me say right from the start that this was a WONDERFUL, feel-good movie which I highly recommend for full family viewing. Originally, my expectations were low, so I was more than pleasantly surprised at the quality of this film.

Dolphin Tale is based on the true story of a dolphin amputee named Winter, and the humans whose lives she changes as they try to help her swim again with the aid of a prosthetic tail.

Fueled by the dream cast of Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristoffersen, what really makes this movie fun for kids are the marine actors—Winter the Dolphin (plays herself), Roofus the Pelican who you makes you wish you had your own pet pelican, sea turtles, and a pair of adorable river otters.

My daughter related to the characters, Sawyer and Hazel—two kids who love and believe in Winter when the grown-ups around them start to lose hope.

The screenplay is formula writing designed to pluck your heartstrings at just the right time, and while that makes the story predictable, the acting and direction bring it all together beautifully. Some bonus real-life footage at the end brought tears to both our eyes.

There was no bad language or violence, and according No Animals Were Harmed, great care was taken to ensure animal safety on the set. According to IMDb, the PG rating is for "mild thematic elements." I'm not sure what that means. For me as a parent, there was not one worrisome or inappropriate element in this movie.

If you are looking for a clean, uplifting, quality flick for your next family movie night, I say give Dolphin Tale a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Reviewed by Karen Cantwell

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Muppets - A Nice Surprise

Rated PG (for mild, crude humor)
103 Minutes
Starring Jason Segal, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper

Who doesn’t love the Muppets? Well, I didn’t. Sure, I watched Sesame Street as a kid, but my opinion of the Muppets growing up…ehh. I could take them or leave them. I decided to take my 5-year-old to see the movie after she watched The Muppets Take Manhattan two times in a row, and after two other school-age children gave it a thumbs up. These children warned my daughter that the villains were kind of scary, but that was no problem for us.

The beauty about homeschooling is that you can take your kids to see movies in the middle of the day, so we were the only two in the huge theater plus three adults.
When the movie started I was riding a high after the new Toy Story short, Small Fry (awesome!) and the Men in Black 3 trailer (love, love, love Will Smith), and sustained my coveted high throughout the show. It was a very enjoyable movie.

At first I thought it was kind of weird that these Muppets (puppets) were depicted as part of the human world. Gary (Jason Segel) has a lifelong pal, Walter, the newest Muppet, who accompanies Gary and Mary (Amy Adams) on their anniversary trip to California. Walter, is a Muppet freak/fan, but when they arrive at the Muppet Studios for a tour, it is dilapidated, and practically abandoned as the guide (Alan Arkin) gives them the $1.50 tour.

Walter sneaks in for a peek at Kermit’s office, and hides when the villain, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his cronies come in to discuss their evil plan to tear down the studios to drill for oil if $10 million dollars isn’t raised in two days. Insert maniacal laugh here.
Walter, Gary and Mary go to Kermit and convince him to round up the rest of the gang to do a telethon to raise the money.

There are a few dance numbers, which my daughter and I always love. My favorite was when Tex breaks out into quick rap when the gang goes to his office, and tries to convince him to stop his evil plan.

The villain Muppets that we were warned about were just a tad sinister-looking with their dark eyebrows and snaggle teeth, but hey, I always thought Bert was a little sinister-looking with his dark eyebrows. If you have young toddlers, keep that in mind if they scare easy and could be affected by these “bad guys.”

I wasn’t too happy after the third time Kermit declared they should just give up, and walked off dejected, but it was just another way to add some suspense, I suppose.

The Muppets is rated PG due to some "mild, crude humor," but I didn't find anything offensive nor was I concerned for my daughter's sake.

From Miss Piggy’s diva drama to a kidnapped Jack Black (who was kidnapped to be the guest host of the telethon), The Muppet Movie is pure entertainment. We give it a BIG THUMBS UP!

Reviewed by Beth Balberchak