Monday, May 7, 2012

A Father’s Plea: Stop Supporting Bad Films “For the Children”: Guest Post from Jordan Maison

Today I wanted to share a guest post of an article I agree wholeheartedly with.  My wife's mother likes to take our boys to the movies.  Some movies I claim first dibs for ones I want to see, like "Star Wars" in 3D (see our review).  Yet others I am glad to let them spend some quality time together, like when she took them to see "Hop."  Overall the kids always love it and we are grateful she does it, but we wish there were better choices for the kids some weekends.

"Parents the world over know the sorrow of being dragged to a terrible kids movie for their children. It's been a problem for a long time now and what we're left with are terrible films that make a lot of money, which then encourages the studios to make more terrible films. Some parents sit back and think 'it's for the kids, so who cares?'...Well this father is saying it's time to stop supporting bad films."
"Over the last couple months I know I've been a little lax on my editor's corner (site updates and all that), but I'm finally back with it and a topic that's been on my mind quite a bit lately. Recently I posted an article about the Smurfs 2 going into production and how that kind of sucked. The first movie wasn't any good and I've got even less hopes for the second."
The Smurfs movie
"However, I got a comment on our Facebook page about it and a handful in my email as well, from parents who felt the need to point out that sometimes with little kids you need films that just keep them entertained and it's one of the many "sacrifices" parents have to make for their children. Sorry, but that's not a good enough reason for me."
"For those of you that don't know, I'm a parent of a very energetic three year old boy, so I'm not just talking out of my [butt] about this subject. Since he finished potty training a while ago and turned 3 earlier this year, I decided it was time to start sharing my great passion with him...movies. Of course we've watched all sorts of things at home, but we're now getting into the theaters. And guess what? We're seeing films that are actually pretty damn decent."
Finding Nemo
"I don't believe in going to see a bad movie "for the kid". There are way too many phenomenally good movies created for children out there in the world. So there's no need to subject them (or ourselves) to terrible films. Seriously...good children's movies are what Disney was built on, and continue to build upon. Pixar is still bringing the goods (outside of Cars 2, but considering their record, we'll forgive) as well, and Dreamworks is showing that they can compete as well."
"When the studios make a run of movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks (the first wasn't that bad, though), Yogi Bear, and The Smurfs, which all vary in levels of awful and they do nothing but make money, it truly makes me sad (there are several more, but those are fairly recent examples). That means the studios are encouraged to put out a sequel even faster (resulting in it being even worse) simply because they know it'll make money. I say it's time to put a stop to that."
Winnie the Pooh
"I'm a firm believer in voting with my wallet and I am just not going to support these movies any more. I'd much rather spend my money and support the good children's films out there, so that those studios are encouraged to keep pumping out quality films. Take Aardman Animation's latest Pirates! Band of Misfits (see our review). I took my son to see it over the weekend and we both loved it. It's a studio I already trust, it'd been getting some decent reviews, so I felt it deserved some support. I want more movies like The Pirates!, while I could absolutely live without another Smurfs or Yogi Bear debacle."
"Personally, I feel the best children's movies are the ones that can appeal to the parents as well. Who says that a film primarily targeted for youngsters can't entertain an adult as well? Every time my son says he wants to watch The Lion King or Aladdin, I think to myself "Hell yeah!" I still enjoy watching those movies as much as I do anything else. Hell, I wanted to see The Lorax and Pirates! probably more than he did; and every time he requests to watch Star Wars, I practically weep with joy."
The Muppets
"Sure, you obviously can't know every film that's going to be a stinker. And sure, sometimes your kids are going to just want to see a movie and bug you until you take them, but that doesn't mean you can't guide them towards better films. If I'm not sure about a film, I'll just wait and rent it, or Redbox it. If it's great, then I'll throw down some money and buy the blu-ray to support it."
"There are tons of great childrens' movies out there in existence now, and they are still being produced today. So fellow parents, let's stop watching bad movies, and excusing it away as being 'for the kids'. We deserve to watch good movies and be entertained, regardless of the age the film was designed for.
I know I'm not the only who feels this way, and so I'd love to see what are some of your favorite 'For Kids' movies that don't suck."

A film/video editor at heart, Jordan dips his hands in many areas of filmmaking, including producing and VFX, all run from his personal production company Solid Studios.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Avengers (2012): Mormon Movie Review


 This week I went to the Marvel Marathon in a lead up to The Avengers.  I know a lot of you where doing a similar thing.  It was my first theater movie marathon and it was a real good time.  They showed the 5 superhero movies that lead up to The Avengers in order; Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America.  If you skipped some on these, I would probably suggest seeing them before you see The Avengers.

   The Avengers starts off with Loki, Tom Hiddleston, returning to Earth to steal an artifact called the Tesseract.  It was the same relic stolen by The Red Skull during Captain America.  Loki wants to use the Tesseract to open a portal to another world and allow an army to infiltrate the Earth that he met after he was ejected from Asgard in the movie Thor.  (see why you might want to watch the other movies first?)   To prevent this from happening; Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson, calls in superheros to help get it back and to stop Loki.  The team is dysfunctional at first.  They all seems to have pretty strong personalities, but as they are tested they unite to become The Avengers!

   This movie was a lot of fun!  The action was great, but with Joss Whedon (Serenity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dr. Horrible) at the director's helm the story in between is just as entertaining.  Although there isn't much character development since that growth took place in the lead up movies, the chemistry evolution of the teammates in captivating.  Tony Stark/Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr., does seem to have most of the spotlight, but the ensemble cast balance is done very well.  Even Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson, and Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner, get a good share of screen time.  

   When I was a kid we had premium channels on our cable and usually that resulted in me and my sister watching hours of the same movies over and over each summer.  One of those movies was My Giant.  One of my movie quality markers come from that movie, "The size of the Villain determines the size of the Hero."  Loki is played very well.  He is conniving, clever, persuasive, and bit mad.  As for the army he brings in, they are pretty faceless.  We really don't get much of an understanding of them and who they are.  They have the personality of the Battle Droids of Star Wars, but don't talk.

   Although it is an action movie, it has a lot of lighthearted moments of humor.  One of my favorites comes from Captain America, Chris Evans.  When warned that Thor, Chris Hemsworth, and Loki are Gods Captain America responds, "There's only one God ma'am, and he doesn't dress like that."

 I was pleased with the way this movie is appropriate for a younger audience.  There was some mild language including the first half of Sh-, but it doesn't get finished.  As an action film there was a lot of violence.  Although our heroes seem pretty indestructible, a lot of civilians are not as lucky as New York become ground zero for the invasion. 

   The Avengers is a non-stop adventure.  It has themes of loyalty, redemption, hope, and patriotism.  Just writing this review makes me want to go see it again!  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Captain America (2011): Mormon Movie Review

   Guest Post from the Mormon Movie Guy.  He writes a great blog similar to ours reviewing movies from a Latter-day Saint Perspective. The review was written by him, but the star ratings were applied based on my interpretation of his review.


   As a superhero-origin movie, Captain America lays out cliche after cliche, following the template of numerous films that have come before it. As a patriotic crowd pleaser, however, it offers plenty of old-fashioned delights. I have to borrow what another reviewer said here, because he summed it up perfectly: "If you’ve got a problem with any of the plot points in Captain America, he will kick you in the chest and make you love your country." Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) delivers a delightfully nostaligic look at the World War II era, complete with a terrific sense of patriotism. This is a character, and a film, that believes in the goodness of America and what it stands for. From the wardrobe to the vernacular, the music, and even the propoganda posters, Johnston lovingly stirs up nostalgia for a bygone time when the country believed in itself and the world seemed painted in black and white (America, England, and their allies were good, the Nazis and their allies were evil) instead of modern shades of grey.

   The eye for period detail is terrific, but contrasts poorly with the cartoonish nature of the villain, Red Skull, and the futuristic design of his weaponry. Though this is a superhero film, the villain lacks the sophisticated crusade of Magneto or the fascinating philosophy of the Joker; instead he's just another one-dimensional, power-hungry magalomaniac bent on world destruction and domination, as found in dozens of other superhero/fantasy/spy films. The lack of a compelling antagonist drags what could have been a great movie down to just being a good one. What's more, though true to the comics, Red Skull looks like he'd be more at home fighting He-Man than a WWII patriot and his faceless minions look like carryovers from that terrible G.I. Joe movie. Though he's harnessed the power of the gods (a nice nod to Thor), Red Skull's technology looks futuristic even by today's standards and seems jarringly out of place in a story set 70 years ago. Don't blame Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings); the fact that the villain holds any interest and displays any menace at all is due to the performance of this excellent actor doing the best he can with an underwritten character.

   That said, there is plenty to enjoy here, both in the hard-hitting action scenes and in the performances. Chris Evans, in the title role, switches off his usual wisecracking routine and delivers an earnest and virtuous performance. The transition of a 90 pound weakling into a hulking behemoth is truly incredible. Captain America, refreshingly, eschews the imperfections that plague other superheroes. These imperfections, granted, make the others interesting as they grow and develop, but they're not always the best role models. Instead of the rock-star vanity of Iron Man, the conflicted torment of Hulk, or the bravado of Thor, Captain America represents a return to the good-natured wholesomeness of classic all-American heroes who represent humility and conscience. Perhaps our nation is more jaded now and we relate better to flawed characters; that said, it was nice for once to be treated to a character who's simply a good person. I've no doubt that it'll be great fun to see how his old-fashioned values interact with those of the just-mentioned superheroes in next summer's Avengers movie.

   Evans' romance will a British officer (Haylee Atwell, in a strong, intelligent, and sweet performance) is nicely handled, taking the less-is-more approach. It was a wise move to show how, even before she was attracted to the him, she admired his courage and meekness. Though the ad campaign takes a "you're going to get so many girls" line out of context and the clueless hero briefly allows a female stranger to give him a kiss of gratitude, Captain America is ultimately a one-gal guy and the film is refreshingly chaste. Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia) continues to impress, giving a warm and funny depiction of a good-hearted German scientist. Rounding up the cast is Tommy Lee Jones, who gets the film's funniest lines. Jones hasn't been this enjoyable since The Fugitive and the first Men in Black, and it's good to have him back in form. Make sure you stick around until the end of the credits for a nice little surprise. All in all, Captain America is yet another solid entry in the Marvel film canon, and it sets audiences up nicely for what's sure to be a great time in next year's The Avengers.


Captain America: The First Avenger is rated PG-13. It has plenty of bloodless war violence and fighting and one incident of quick blood spray. Language is minimal, with only 2 mild and 1 moderate uses of profanity that I recall. Some characters drink alcohol. A villain kills unarmed persons. There is no nudity or sexuality apart from two kisses.

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: True heroes do not enjoy violence or killing, but will forcefully defend liberty and innocent lives if necessary, even to the point of giving up their own lives. Parents may want to draw the attention of youth to the example of another patriot, Captain Moroni, who is described in the Book of Mormon: "And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding, yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery. Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood. Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives." (Alma 48: 11-14)


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