Frozen Fever Review

Spoiler if you don’t want to know anything about Frozen Fever than don’t read on.

frozen feverI was asked by frequent commenter Richard (check out his blog at  what I thought of the Frozen short before Cinderella, Frozen Fever, so I figured I might as well tell all of you.

I don’t think it will convince anyone that is on the ‘Frozen Sucks Train’ to get off but for fans they will really enjoy it.  I enjoyed it. It’s not a Pixar short or something like that or as lovely as Feast but there was a lot to like.

frozen fever2Basically it’s Anna’s birthday and Elsa is trying to make it a perfect day for her sister who never got a birthday party with Elsa and the castle being closed off. I thought it was lovely that Elsa wants to do something nice for her sister.

I also loved the design of Elsa’s new dress!

frozen fever3Kristoff and Olaf are back and they are a lot of fun helping to get set up for the party.

frozen fever7The problem is that Elsa has a cold which makes her sneeze snowbabies but she pushes on with the party (could be describing the last 2 weeks of my life!).

frozen fever5The problem is she’s collecting snowbabies at the rate I’m collecting tissues. It kind of felt like Gremlins on ice!

frozen fever 8Eventually Anna has to put a stop to it and let her sister know she can rest.

I’m sure someone will find something snarky to say about it but I thought it was a sweet little moment for the sisters, enjoyed seeing Olaf and Kristoff and the song ‘Making Today a Perfect Day’ by the Lopez’s was great.

Frozen Fever combined with the recent season of Once Upon a Time make me excited for Frozen 2.  I think with 2 lead female characters there is a lot you can do with the world and I’m excited to see what they come up with.

That said, it’s nothing new or groundbreaking as we’ve gotten used to seeing in a lot of animated shorts these days.  I’d give it a B.

What do you think of Frozen Fever? Keep comments clean and respectful.


cinderella 2015Miracles happen!  I actually liked a live action Disney fairytale offering.  It’s shocking after such dismal failures as Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland but I’ve always said if I was going to like one it would probably be Cinderella.  As I explained in my previous post I am a huge Cinderella fan and have become a bit of a collector of versions over the years.  To me it’s remarkable how the same story can be taken and molded in different ways with equally satisfying results.  Each version makes choices on what it is trying to teach its viewers and how the basic tale plays out.

So what about this latest version?  Well, I’m delighted to say I loved it!

It starts off differently than any other version I can recall by spending a lot of time with Cinderella and her Mother and Father.  They teach her to be ‘kind and courageous’ in all things.

cinderella 2014-6After Cinderella’s mother dies they spend time with just her and her father and then when he marries Cate Blanchett’s Lady Tremaine we see her try to elevate the house with parties and gambling.  I don’t think I’ve seen a version with as much time spent with Cinderella, her father and Stepmother.

cinderella 2

Lady Tremaine is very jealous of the relationship between her husband and his daughter and we learn later that it is because she once had such a love but he was taken from her. She feels she never got her happy ending which I thought was a clever spin on the character.

Blanchett is so good as Lady Tremaine.  It feels like she is enacting her revenge on life on Cinderella and it makes her a deliciously complex and fun villain.

They stick pretty closely to the animated version (thank goodness) once the story gets going and I enjoyed seeing little easter eggs to the original throughout.  For instance, she is getting eggs and is humming ‘Sweet Nightingale’ which is a number I love with the bubbles in the original.

cinderella 2015-2

Cinderella works very hard as always and she has friends with the mice who thankfully don’t talk but are just cute squeakers.  Lily James is much better than I expected her to be as Cinderella.  She is is fine in Downton Abbey but shines much more here.  There is a warmth to her that reminded me of a young Kate Winslet.

One day she is out riding and meets the Prince who she convinces to not kill a magnificent steer in his hunting party.  The Prince played by Richard Madden gets a fair amount of time here and I thought he did a good job.  He wants to marry for love and maybe even a nice country girl which I thought was cute.

cinderella 2015 10Cinderella’s kindness towards the steer is what impresses him the most and he can’t get her out of his mind.  When his father the King insists he get married he proposes a ball where all the eligible maidens in the land can attend.  This is, of course, a ploy to get to see and hopefully woe Cinderella again.

The announcement is made and Lady Tremaine and her daughters get right to work.  The stepsisters are played with a lot of nasty humor by Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera and Hayley Atwell and the costumes are magnificent by 3 time Oscar winner Sandy Powell (I think there are like 3 women who have won all the costume Oscars…).

cinderella 2015-3I was kind of hoping the sisters would have the big bustles like in the original.  That would have been hilarious but their costumes were so bright and colorful I enjoyed it.

Then we get to the devastating moment of Cinderella trying to go to the ball.  In this the mice don’t make the dress and nothing is stolen.  She refits her Mother’s dress in pink which makes Lady Tremaine all the more angry at Cinderella for both presuming to go to the ball, compete with her daughters for the Prince and for bringing up her Mother.  She quite viciously tears the sleeve off the dress and Cinderella is devastated.


And this is what most people get wrong about this moment- Cinderella is not devastated about the ball and her chance to meet the Prince.  She is devastated because the story her Mother taught her about ‘kindness and courage’ seems to have been a lie.  It does not win in the end and that’s the hope which has been shattered.

Haven’t we all had such a dark moment where we are in need of rescue? Well, I believe like Cinderella if we are good people the rescue comes and so it does here with the Fairy Godmother played by Helena Bonham Carter.

cinderella 2015 fairy godmotherWhen she’s not in a Tim Burton movie I really like Carter (such as in The King’s Speech).  Here she is magical, silly and a little absent minded.  I also really liked the way they did the transformation of the lizards, mice and geese.  It was a slow change and you could still see characteristics of the animals in the final creations.

cinderella horsesWhen I had seen trailers I didn’t care for Cinderella’s dress.  The animated dress is like liquid diamonds, so beautiful but the way they explain is actually touching and the look grew on me.

cinderella 2015-5The scene at the ball is gorgeous and there is genuine chemistry between the Prince and Cinderella.  Mostly just a sense of freedom for our heroine and that she is getting a break from all the hardness in her life (don’t we all need a break from the hardness!).

As I said, Lily James is so likable in the role and you root for her without her feeling cheesy or preachy.  It really does feel like she believes in kindness and courage and is trying hard to lead a good life.

I won’t spoil any more of it for you but I thought the way it played out with Cinderella and Lady Tremaine was brilliant and I loved how they handled the glass slipper sequence.

Cate-Blanchett-Cinderella-TrailerThe supporting cast is all great and I liked there was a little bit of diversity for this kind of story.  Stellan Skarsgard is good as the Duke, Derek Jacobi as the King and my particular favorite was Nonso Anozie as the Prince’s Captain who was funny in every scene he’s in.


There will be some who will claim Cinderella isn’t modern enough.  That it doesn’t show an empowered independent woman and that may be true (although not in every version of the story).  They will often claim it tells young girls marriage to a Prince is the answer to all of life’s problems.  In my view that is the an extremely superficial reading of Cinderella and a story which has persisted in popularity since the Middle Ages deserves a little more pondering.

The reason Cinderella is powerful is because it teaches young girls that no matter what happens to them they should never give up hope.  In that sense it is very empowering. In this version it also teaches us that kindness and courage always win over cruelty and deceit.  Cinderella is not valued merely on her looks but her goodness and that is why she is rescued from her unhappy state.  May we all have that hope in our dark times.

After all a dream is a wish your heart makes…

Overall Grade- A+   Content Grade- A+ (nothing offensive in this at all)

My youtube review

Cinderella Through the Years

cinderella through the years

Before I post my review of the latest Disney Cinderella I thought I would share with all of you my reviews of 4 other Cinderella movies over the years. I love the story of Cinderella because at its core is the human need to be rescued from time to time.  Some may see this as feminine frailty being celebrated but I believe all of us need rescue from the dark times of our lives.  In fact, Cinderella is not rescued by the Prince. She is rescued from this terrible situation from another woman.  And why is she rescued?  Because she is hard working, faithful and kind.

Cinderella is also a message about hope and that if you are a good person, a good friend who works hard eventually good things will happen to you.  It is for these reasons the story has lasted for centuries and permeated every medium of storytelling including literature, theater and of course the movies.

When I first started my youtube channel I did a defense of Cinderella and reviewed 4 different versions, which I believe show the versatility of the story.  Many think only of the 1950 Disney animated version which I love (#3 in my Disney Canon ranking).  But the other 3 versions I reviewed are unique in other ways and all a lot of fun to watch.  I would encourage you to hunt them down and watch them as you watch the latest version and let me know what you think.

Like I said, these videos were just when I was starting so the audio isn’t perfect but the content is I believe pretty solid. I will summarize a little bit before each video in case you prefer it written than in a video form.


Disney 1950 Cinderella-

The first is the 1950 Disney Cinderella.  This version has the best music and is the most artistically beautiful of any version to date.  The backgrounds are especially lovely.  Scenes like the bubbles in Sing Sweet Nightangale are gorgeous and the way Lady Tremaine is drawn with the green eyes makes her one of Disney’s best villains ever.  She is completely unsympathetic and gets her self esteem in life out of ruining the life of another human being.  Yet Cinderella stays positive and hopeful until the dress, made by her loving friends, is destroyed and it is completely devastating.  Despite all that has happened to her this is the first time she is hopeless and it is then when the rescue comes.  Verna Felton is so great as the Fairy Godmother and I love this interchange:

There’s nothing left to believe in. Nothing.

Fairy Godmother: Nothing, my dear? Oh, now you don’t really mean that.

Cinderella: Oh, but I do…

Fairy Godmother: Nonsense, child. If you’d lost all your faith, I couldn’t be here. And here I am.

In a lot of ways it is similar to the message of Pinocchio.  ‘When you wish upon a star makes no difference who you are…anything your heart desires will come to you”.  Does that mean you just sit and wait?  No and that’s not what Cinderella does.  She works really hard and in the end good things happen in a way that is unexpected.  It has nothing to do with her marrying a Prince but escaping a rather Hellish existence and being free.

Glass Slipper

glass slipperThe Glass Slipper is a very different version of Cinderella because unlike the Disney version Cinderella is kind of a jerk.  She’s stubborn and willful and picks fights with everyone around her.  Played by Leslie Caron she insists she is going to end up in the palace and everybody thinks she’s a nut.  Then she meets the Prince in the mountains and thinks he is the Baker’s son.  She thinks he is making fun of her and throws him into the lake. They meet on several occasions and he’s bewitched by her ‘sad eyes’.

The main strength of this version is the amazing dancing.  Leslie Caron is of courses famous for her being an incredible dancer and in this film they have 2 full ballets done by Roland Petit and the Ballet de Paris.  For those that want a more headstrong determined Cinderella this might be a favorite of yours! I love dance so I love it.

The Slipper and the Rose

slipper and rose

Slipper and the Rose is a unique musical version of the Cinderella story with songs by the Sherman Brothers.  The songs are more like nuttiness of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang than the Sherman Brothers more mainstream musicals like Mary Poppins or The Jungle Book.  The lyrics are very funny and all of the performances are campy and silly but entertaining.  There are also a lot of unique touches to the story like the Prince and Cinderella actually get engaged for a period but Cinderella is convinced it would not be good for the kingdom for Prince to marry a commoner.  She is exiled but lives quite peacefully without the Prince quite happy to be free from her burdens.

Eventually the Prince agrees to marry out of duty despairing of finding Cinderella and she must decide whether to go back and stop the wedding.  Kind of a different take on the story and I like it! But the main appeal on this one is the music and all the humor.

Ever After

ever afterEver After is a very modern take on Cinderella story.  For starters there is no magic of any kind.  It is also the only version with a male Fairy Godmother figure in Leonardo Divinci.  Drew Barrymoore plays a girl named Danielle who ends up a servant to the terrific Anjelica Huston who is very sympathetic as the stepmother who married a strange out of necessity and then was expected to care for his daughter.  The Prince and Danielle meet early on and it is a very academic courtship.  They go to a romantic library covered in vines and spar over Utopian philosophy and the value of human freedom.

Drew Barrymoore and Dougray Scott have great chemistry together and it is the only version where he is the one who is devastated by her pretending to be someone she is isn’t.  That isn’t even addressed in other versions. It takes him a while to agree to forgive her and by that time she is sold and whipped but in the end she doesn’t need rescue, but rescues herself which I think is a cool spin on the story.  It’s an extremely satisfying version and may be my favorite live action.  They all have parts I love.


Have you guys seen any of these versions?  I would love to know your thoughts.  If not, go check them out.  They are great movies and it is fascinating to see the same story taken in such different ways.  Is there a version I have missed that you enjoy.  Last year we had Anna Kendrick as Cinderella in Into the Woods which I enjoyed


And my review of 2015 Cinderella is coming up next… 🙂

Getting to Know My Tastes

Ever since I did my post on superhero movies I’ve been wanting to make a post explaining a little bit more about me and my likes and dislikes.  Hopefully this will give my reviews some context and help them make a little more sense.

1. If someone asks me what my favorite movie is my go to answer is Up.  To me it is perfect. up_posterIn fact I like it so much I had this cake made for my birthday party/open house

up cake2. My favorite book is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

north and south3. My favorite modern book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The_Book_Thief_by_Markus_Zusak_book_coverIn general I do not love YA novels and in particular could do away with vampires, warewolves and dystopian novels for the rest of my life and be a happy girl.  I try to be open minded but I generally like memoirs about interesting people and the classics the best.

4. I am Mormon and served a mission for my church from 2003-2005 so for the most part if a movie came out during those years I haven’t seen it.

mission5. A follow up to the previous item I tend to enjoy Christian based films with positive messages or films with those values and there are a wide range of films I will not see because of content including all Scorsese films except for Hugo and all the Tarantino films.  I take films on a case-by-case basis because I think the MPAA is a complete joke.  I don’t think I am the biggest prude in the world but I will not be seeing The Wolf of Wall Street with 508 f words anytime soon…

MPAA-ratings6. I do not like to be scared. I know others enjoy the sensation and I respect that,  I do not.  Even movies which are overly grim and cynical do not appeal to me.

scary movies7. The first movie I remember going to see in the theaters and really loving was Little Mermaid.

little mermaid8. The worst movie I saw as a kid was Return to Oz. The scene with the all the heads scarred me for life. It’s so dark and unpleasant and not in a good way.

return to oz

Another prime candidate would be The Rescuers.  The idea of a girl getting kidnapped by a mean lady and getting forced down into a tiny cave still gives me the creeps.

medusa-and-penny9. As a teen my passion was theater and less movies with Les Miserables being my obsession.  I knew every line and saw it when I was 14 on Broadway and it blew me away. Just saw it a few weeks ago and it still has that power.

les miserables310. 2 movies I’ve walked out of in the theater are

Drop Dead Gorgeous (will always be my least favorite movie of all time)

drop dead gorgeousAnd Superstar

Superstarmovieposter11.  The movie which made me laugh the hardest first was Home Alone and it still makes me laugh.

home alone12.  What I used to watch with my siblings- The Simpsons. Still watch it every Sunday.

simpsons213. I love scenes in movies where characters fly!  So if it is in there I am going to be kinder to it than I might otherwise be.

flying214. I hate what I call ‘wink wink’ humor meant for adults in kids movies.  Just be funny for both kids and adults.

shrek15.  In college I majored in political science with an emphasis on political philosophy so I love movies which dive a little deeper into human behavior and why we do what we do.

Boyhood-poster-quad16. My family talks incessantly about Sherlock Holmes- how great Benedict is, how we hate the Downy versions, love the old Jeremy Brett, reading and discussing the stories.  It’s kind of strange actually.

jeremy-brett-sherlock-holmes17. My favorite show growing up aside from the Simpsons was Boy Meets World.

boy meets world18. My literary muse is Nora Ephron.  I love her writing so much.

Nora Ephron19.  One of my heroes is Julia Child for daring to start over in her life and graduating from Le Cordon Blu when she was nearly 40.  She inspires me daily.

julia child220. I love action adventure stories that don’t take themselves too seriously.

tin tin21. I love movies about work. Why we work? When do we overwork? What do we accomplish from work? What is too much to sacrifice for work etc? Most of my favorite movies involve that in some way.

the apartment22.  I love a good romantic comedy when it is done right.  I highly resent the term ‘chick flick’

harry met sally23.  I love being in the water especially the Ocean and especially Hawaii.  One of my biggest hobbies is open water swimming in the summer and I love being out in nature and swimming, so any movie that involves that I am going to be predisposed to like it.

swimming24.  I quit a job I was miserable at in 2007 and started blogging as part of my healing process in 2008.  Check out my regular blog which is more personal and occasionally religious at

25. I’m a reality TV game show fan particularly Survivor and Amazing Race although haven’t watched the Race this season.

Marquesas_Original_Fan_Recreation26.  I’m a pretty staunch Republican particularly Libertarian causes and issues and I believe the arts can be a tool to teach and promote empathy and understanding amongst all people no matter their viewpoints.


27. I consider myself a feminist when it comes to equal pay and a positive representation in the media but not on most politically charged issues.

women actresses

28. In general am not a huge fantasy fan and enjoy things more grounded in characters I can relate to and worlds I understand but there are exceptions

fairies song of the sea29.  Most of my friends are not big movie watchers hence my need to blog my thoughts and talk about them with all of you!

30. Things I think are boring (bc everyone’s definition differs so wildly) Contact, Dinner with Andre, Star Wars prequels, Dinosaur, Harry Potter 7 pt 1, The English Patient, Transformers 4, American Beauty, Last Airbender, Life of Pi, Terms of Endearment but for the most part movies that others think are boring I don’t mind.


31.  I have a lazy eye and have had surgery twice on it in recent years.  This is why I tend to not see 3D and do not play video games.


32. I love stories about redemption and think Christmas Carol is the best story ever written.

christmas-carol-1999-patrick-stewart-scrooge-desmond-barrit-ghost-of-christmas-present33.  I’m from a family of 6 of kids and my Mom was pregnant when I went to college.  Have siblings 16 and 18 years younger than me.

My nutso family

34.  If I had to pick British loves I’d go with Austen and Dickens over Tolkien and Rowling.

dickens-austen-movies35. I do not like violence in movies.  It sticks in my head in a way it doesn’t seem to for others.  Movies that most find harmless bother me.

Sorry Quentin can't go with you on this one.  I know you are very talented but movies aren't for me!
Sorry Quentin can’t go with you on this one. I know you are very talented but your movies aren’t for me!

36.  I do not watch Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Newsroom, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Dexter or whatever R rated drama is the current rage.  I do watch Once Upon a Time, Sherlock and Downton Abby though!

snow white

37.  Current favorite scripted TV shows are The Goldbergs, Hindsight, Mindy Project and The Middle.

PHOTO-showsheet_Goldbergs_Couch-128038.  I hate the recent fairytale retelling trend but we’ll see if Cinderella changes my mind.

In “Maleficent,” Angelina Jolie offers a fresh take on the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale.39.  I loved How I Met Your Mother.  After the Simpsons it is my second favorite series ever but hated the finale so much there are not words to express.  Hard for me to watch episodes because I know how it ended. Darn you Carter Bays and Craig Thomas!

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER40.  As far as music goes I love Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson, and Sara Barielles. But I like a wide variety with everything from jazz to hip-hop to classical to broadway on my playlists.  And Disney soundtracks of course!


That’s probably enough for the moment.  Hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about me.  Tell me a little bit more about you!

Night at the Museum 3 Review

night at museum9Not every movie is a masterpiece but you can still enjoy it and that’s how I always felt about the Night at the Museum movies.  They weren’t ‘good’ movies but I liked them and they had enough laughs and overall charm to make them worth a watch.  I kind of feel the same about the National Treasure movies.  I can imagine that back in the day lots of movies were made like them.  Whether it was a stock shoot em up western or a fun action adventure show Hollywood has always made campy family friendly movies that are entertaining if not particularly memorable.

Unfortunately even these innocent franchises can strain the tenuous chord of likability they have and I’m afraid that is what Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb has done.  Even with such marginal expectations I was really disappointed by it. Especially with the talent, it is a really lame film.

night at museum3If you are unaware of the series it is a pretty simple set up.  Basically Ben Stiller plays a night watchman at the Natural History Museum in New York and each night the characters from the museum become alive including a strange mixture of history and natural history that I don’t think any museum actually has.  We have everything from Atilla the Hun to Teddy Roosevelt to a T-Rex.  It is basically a Toy Story premise with various challenges threatening to shut down the museum and end the nightly lives of our heroes.  The key to making it work is having enough characters and a witty enough script to keep it moderately entertaining.  For instance, Night at the Museum 2 was helped immeasurably by Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart and Bill Hader as General Custer.

Unfortunately in Museum 3 the script isn’t funny enough and the new cast is woefully underused.  The new challenge to the cast of characters is the magical tablet is starting to get a green mold on it and the magic is starting to lessen.  Through convoluted series of events they all have to go to London to find the Egyptian home of the tablet and they all come with Ben Stiller’s Larry.  The main new additions in London are Rebel Wilson as a security guard who doesn’t get one good joke sadly and I love her so much. She tries so hard to get the laughs but the material just isn’t there.

night at museum7They also meet Lancelot played by Dan Stevens who isn’t campy enough.  He isn’t fun enough.  I kept thinking- “You left Lady Mary with a baby for this!”

night at museum4There was one funny scene where Lancelot storms in on Hugh Jackman playing King Arthur in Camelot on a stage.  Got to hand it to Jackman for being willing to laugh at his Wolverine character and public persona.

I kind of felt like Night at the Museum 3 was trying to make a touching send off without giving us a good story on its own.  It’s really a shame because it is our last appearance of Robin Williams and he is the one spot where the goodbye tone feels earned.  I wish there was more for him to do than just say goodbye.

night at museum6To show how this movie wastes talent we have Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson as the miniatures- two of the funniest men out there and their humor just falls flat.  This movie even resorts to characters getting urinated on. I mean that is Adam Sandler territory and with such talent it is a real shame.

night at the museum5The worst part is the time spent with Ben Stiller and his son who wants to skip college and become a DJ.  That’s just what I want in my campy family comedy, teenage father arguments.  I mean how is that fun for kids?

In the end, I went in with very modest, measured expectations but Night at the Museum 3 couldn’t even meet those.  It was just a waste and the only time I laughed was the Hugh Jackman bit and I did like saying goodbye to Robin Williams even if I wish he’d gotten more.

As far as content aside from the urinating monkey there isn’t anything offensive or bothersome. That said, I really don’t think it will have much to entertain kids.  I think they will be bored by a lot of the relationship stuff and Egyptian tomb mumbo jumbo.  I’d say Penguins of Madagascar is much funnier recent family comedy or even Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.

So in the end I can’t see giving it any higher than a D+

The Giver: A Review

giverI guess this is just the weekend for me to watch drab sad movies based on popular books.  Any person would have to admit that Fault in Our Stars is a better movie than the Giver but it angered me more where The Giver was just uniformly bland.  It’s a shame too because I love the novel and have been to a Lois Lowry lecture and heard her talk about the characters and world so lovingly.  It pains me to say it but The Giver is not a very good movie.

In truth it should never have been made in the first place.  It’s basically a book about a boy who sits in an office, receives memories and then decides to leave.  That works in the book but in the movie it feels like a dystopian therapist session that’s not very interesting.

giver 6They actually get the world pretty good except they invite color way too early and the appearance of color isn’t nearly shocking enough for Jonas.  He doesn’t seem to be really effected by what he see’s until the war when in the book every session is jaw dropping for him.  It is also way more of an emotional journey for The Giver where here it seems like he decides last minute to go along with Jonas’ plan.  In the book he tells him about his daughter earlier and they seem like son and father deeply connected.

I thought they handled the baby ‘release’ about as chillingly yet not grotesque way as they could and the father never seemed trustworthy where in the book he totally does.  Katie Holmes is terrible and I am all the more convinced she  cannot act to save her life.

I guess I’m jumping ahead of myself.  If you are unfamiliar with The Giver it is a dystopian novel (written long before the recent trend yet the last one to make it to the big screen…) about a society which has removed all choices, memory and emotion from human experience.  Each day the residents are given injections to dull their senses and all abnormalities, even pleasant one’s like twins or babies who cry too much, are removed so all conformity is ensured.

giver3The residents have lost the ability to see colors and are living in black and white, happy with the choices they are given.  They are also taught to use ‘precise language’ such as talking about why they love someone not just saying ‘I love you’.  They also are taught to never lie and to always apologize for everything.

giver2At the beginning the graduating seniors are given their assigned roles and careers and young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is  given the rare responsibility as ‘The Receiver of Memories’.  He is assigned to the current receiver or The Giver played by Jeff Bridges.  He is told he will live by different rules than everyone else and he stops taking the pills and injections.

The Giver then gives Jonas all the memories of society- the wars, joys, and colors, and this naturally causes him to feel conflicted.  Everything is heightened when he finds out more about his father and they have a new baby assigned them named Gabe.   There is also a girl he wrestles with feelings for named Fiona played by Odeya Rush.

giver 5Meryl Streep is a convincing villain as The Chief Elder who is the only one besides The Giver who knows what is really going on.  However, she like any despot convinces herself that the suffering is for the best.  “When people choose, they choose wrong” she says.

giver5Evidently this was a passion project for Jeff Bridges and he is good as The Giver but the structure of the story just doesn’t work as a movie.  It’s too much people sitting talking and sharing random events and that works in the book but not in the movie. I don’t think there is anything they could have done to have made it work. Once Jonas breaks free and is out of the Giver sessions I felt it gets some momentum and I started to care more.  That last segment and the last scene with the sled was very good.

Maybe a really artistic director like Terry Gilliam or the way Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner it could have worked but I think you’d have to work a little more action into the story or find a way to narrate the memory giving so you get the emotion shared in the book into the movie.

I actually think it could work very well as a TV series where each week he confronts a new memory and things build bit-by-bit. You could really get to know the characters and the memories a little bit more than you can in a movie.  Thoughts?

I really love the book so it’s a shame.  It’s the kind of book 100 people could read and get 100 different messages out of it.  Some see it as very religious. Others as agnostic and according to Lowry both are right.  That’s what makes it a great book but a challenging movie.

The movie also does embrace the Biblical allegories more than the book. We see apples and the idea of original sin is discussed more than memories on their own. I didnt mind that but I also like the subtlety of the book a little better

Everyone tries and it isn’t terrible, but like The Book Thief movie it has all of the pieces but none of the magic. Read the book instead.  In my opinion it is a much better book than The Hunger Games (and much less cynical).

As far as content a baby is killed but it is mostly off screen.  Jonas is chased with a baby and war and other pain is depicted in the memories.  Other than that it is pretty tame. No language that I can recall.

Overall Grade- C    Content Grade- A

I wrote this post and then looked at an old comment I made when it first came out.  Looks like I thought it could be a good TV series then and still do now!  Some things never change! Funny.  (And I was right on about Lowry focusing more on characters than setting which is unusual for dystopian novels)

the giver 6 months

Fault in Our Stars Review

faultmovieSo  I am continuing to get through the 2014 releases and I think like last year it will probably take me till June to be done but this last weekend I got through 3 more including The Fault in Our Stars.

Based on the best seller by John Green Fault in Our Stars was a huge hit making 305 million on a 12 million budget. I know many love it and the book but I had mixed feelings.

fault in stars2Fault in Our Stars is about a girl fighting cancer named Hazel Grace who meets a cute boy in group therapy named Augustus Waters (such movie names…).  He’s a free thinker and likes to put a cigarette in his mouth because “you put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth. You don’t give it the power to do its killing’

fault in stars6This was all kind of charming but I don’t know if he was just a little bit too smug. I never felt too drawn into Augustus played by Ansel Elgort.

Shailene Woodley, on the other hand, is great as Hazel and her part doesn’t really give her that much to work with but she is so good you become very attached to her. (Lily Kenna as a young Hazel is also very good and looks an amazing amount like Woodley).  The dialogue felt a little too cute at times and it was just ok for me.  I can see how it would really work in a book but it doesn’t feel authentic even with how relatable and real Woodley is in the part.

Laura Dern and Sam Trammell are fine as her parents and the supporting cast including Nat Wolf as their blind best friend are all good.

fault in starsThe romance between Gus and Hazel is very sweet but it all felt a little too Nicholas Sparksian for me.  I guess at least there isn’t a big cancer ‘reveal’ like in his movies but it all felt kind of manipulative and corny. I knew what was going to happen and was waiting for the big shoe to drop, but I was still enjoying the relationship and tearing up at the thought of both soon dying.  I’m not a monster so of course that affects me but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good movie. The movie has to earn the tears it evokes.

fault in stars3Next we get a long segment where Hazel and Gus get to fulfill her dream of meeting her favorite author in Amsterdam. This is Gus’ Make a Wish wish and Hazel anxiously awaits knowing what happened to the cancer-stricken girl in her favorite book.

fault in stars5This is where the movie lost me.  William Dafoe plays the author Peter Van Houten as one of the biggest jerks in movie history.  He’s right up there with the dictators, despots and murderers.  I’m serious.  It took me out of the movie it was so over the top. It kind of made me angry at the movie for manipulating me and making me feel such anger and for what? What does that anger do?  It’s not like 12 Years a Slave where I learn about evil and human history.  This is a man who would never exist so it is anger merely there to make me, the viewer, angry.

It’s like this movie pretends twitter, social media and news doesn’t exist.  This is a popular enough book for it to be big in the US when written in Amsterdam and yet an author will say to 2 kids with cancer flown across the world:

“You are a side-effect to an evolutionary process that cares little for individual lives. You are a failed experiment in mutation”

Give me a break movie. Last year the chef Ina Garten couldn’t fit a Make a Wish kid into her schedule and it was a huge story.  Her career took a huge hit and she didn’t even say anything mean.  Can you imagine if something like this happened with a teen novelist? Forget it. It would be all over twitter and everywhere else.  He’d have to be JK Rowling rich to not have to be at least passably nice to these kids.

I don’t know.  It really kind of pissed me off. Screw you  movie for making me care about these characters and then putting them in a situation where they are basically verbally flogged for no reason.


Another speech by Van Houten:

“Let’s imagine you’re racing a tortoise. The tortoise has a ten-yard head start. In the time it takes you to run ten yards the tortoise has moved maybe one yard, and so on, forever. You’re faster than the tortoise, but you can never catch him, you see? You can only decrease his lead. Now, certainly, you can run past the tortoise as long as you don’t contemplate the mechanics involved. But the question of “how” turns out to be so complicated that no one really solved it until Cantor’s proof that some infinities are bigger than other infinities. I assume that answers your question”

Why did that need to be there? Just to prove what a great guy Gus was? We already knew that. To show there is something worse than death by cancer? That could work if it was a little bit subtle (say the grumpy lady in Pollyanna who comes around) but this just made me angry at the movie.

I guess at least we know Green Goblin will not be the worst person William Dafoe has ever played. That’s for sure.

And then the movie piles on by taking them to the Anne Frank house next! (Where they kiss for the first by the way and the other attendees at the house cheer which seemed very strange thing for people to do in the Anne Frank house).   Give me a break!  Know when to allow your viewers to breathe and take in all they’ve seen, and when they do don’t make it tonally awkward and unsatisfying . I’ve been less exhausted watching WWII movies.

fault in stars7

The movie then picks up some steam and there is a lovely eulogy moment and I did cry a lot at the ending even though it was pretty predictable but that writer scene really ruined it for me. I felt manipulated and disgusted and it never could quite win me back.

I know that’s the way the book is and they try to throw a little bit of redemption for Van Houten but I already felt thoroughly emotionally drained and manipulated by the movie to care much.  I guess the book would have done the same for me.

So despite some good performances and a nice look to it I can’t recommend The Fault in Our Stars.  However, if you like the book and that scene doesn’t tick you off than I can see why you might like it.  Even without it it’s just not my favorite kind of movie.  A lady at my church just died from cancer and it was really sad but it was also inspiring.  I wish there was more of that kind of feeling in The Fault in Our Stars.

As far as content it is pretty mature for a teenage weeper. There is a sex scene with a lot of skin and a litle language (although if there was ever a moment to cuss someone out it is Van Houten)  I would say its right on the edge of an R and is for mature teens only.

Those of you who liked it I’d love to hear your thoughts?

Overall Grade- D  Content Grade- C

Beyond the Lights Review

beyond lights7Beyond the Lights is a tough movie to review because I can’t really defend it and yet I want to. I don’t know if any of you can relate to that feeling when watching a movie?  You know it isn’t great and yet the performers or some other aspects just seem to work for you and you like it.

beyond lights5The sole reason Beyond the Lights works is the magnetism, warmth and believability of the two lead actors, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker.  Despite her unwieldy name I predict Gugu is going to be a huge star.  She is so great in this case playing a  Rihanna-like star on the rise named Noni Jean.  She is sexy, beautiful and seemingly confident but in our opening scenes she is sitting on a balcony edge contemplating suicide.

beyond the lights

Her mother is played by Minnie Driver as a fairly cliched ‘manager Mom’ but I did like that she was smarter than nearly everyone else in the room and she thinks she is advocating for her daughter while completely failing at it.  This is kind of an interesting dynamic; although not all that original.  Still, the performers elevate it to be quite compelling.

Noni’s Mother tries to talk her daughter off of the balcony ledge but is unsuccessful.  (Again completely not getting what Noni is really saying).  Now steps on to the scene our hero Kaz Nicol, Noni’s bodyguard for the night who saves her life and tells her ‘I see you’. Corny line but I’m telling you it works.

beyond lights6Her Mom, the label, fans, don’t see her but this good man does. This begins our romance and basically the movie plays out exactly like you might think but that’s not a bad thing.  These are two very likable people who are trying to be their best self and love the other. They have great chemistry together and  I at least enjoyed seeing their romance play out.

beyond lights4Gugu also does her own singing in Beyond the Lights and it great.  Everything from the hip-hop tracks with a guy known in the movie as Kid Culprit to the softer moments of Nina Simone’s Blackbird, are wonderful. Not just an adequate movie soundtrack but a CD I would be interested in buying even without the movie.

They try to throw in a political track for Koz led by his father played by Danny Glover and that doesn’t work very well.  It feels too cute with how closely it mirrors Noni and her mother’s relationship.  Luckily it isn’t in the movie that much.

Most of the movie is just Noni and Koz getting to know each other and since I liked both of them that was fine with me.


There is also a nice message of being your authentic self and that weaves and images do not give the popularity that lasts or provide any kind of real self worth. For a movie with a suicide attempt and a fairly conventional romance the messaging is actually kind of subtle and effective. Again probably because we like the lead characters so much we don’t mind them teaching us something rather ordinary but important.

beyond lights3If you hate it I totally get it.  Like I said I can’t really defend the movie except that I loved the performances, music and the two lead characters.  I liked their romance together.  It felt believable and it had a heart to it which I enjoyed.  All together it is a film where the parts are better than the sum and most of that praise goes to Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker and the music.  For what it is I liked it.

When I think of what the movie would be in the typical hands of Tyler Perry I especially like it.  There are very few African American female filmmakers and Gina Prince-Blythewood does a good job writing and directing the movie. The dialogue feels real and believable even if a little corny. It just works.

As far as content there is some sensuality but its pretty tame.  The more explicit segments are probably in the photo shoots and dance numbers but they probably aren’t much worse than an episode of Top Model or the Grammys.  There is a scene of domestic violence but very minimal language.  I’d say its fine for teens and up.

Can you relate to what I’m saying about a movie which you know isn’t great but you still enjoy because of the performances or some other aspect? I’d love to hear what some of yours are.

Overall Grade- C+  Content Grade- B