Moana

In Disney’s latest animated film, you get a polynesian princess and Maui, a herculean strongman. These two unwittingly team together to save their world.

Moana starts out on a tropical island. It could be Hawaii but it isn’t said exactly where. We find out it is of the Polynesian realm so it likely could be. Moana is the Chieftain’s daughter and plays at the seashore a lot. We see her grow through 2 phases and when she is close to adult age, she decides to go out and see what she can see at sea. It’s a good thing too because, as it so happens, the future of her people and islands depends on her.


Moana

Moana

“In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the demigod to set things right.” -IMDB

Cast

Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison

Directed by

Ron Clements, Don Hall

Written by

Jared Bush, Ron Clements

Other Info

Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical
PG
Wed 23 Nov 2016 UTC
103min
IMDB Rating: 8.2

This is a great movie. You get a princess who kept reminding me of Rapunzel in Tangled. It’s the eyes that did it. You also get a scoundrel, mean Maui played by Dwayne Johnson. We get to hear him sing which is quite noteworthy. I never thought I’d hear a wrestler sing like this. HE actually hits the notes and does a damn good job as a singer in this. Who knew?

I thought the middle was a little scant but the dynamics of the relationship between Maui and Moana keep things exciting. I must say that Moana is created to be incredibly beautiful. They certainly took a lot of care bringing her character to life. Disney is to be applauded.

When I say scant, I mean they are at sea. It’s pretty cool seeing Maui use his magic abilities to shape shift but I felt if they wanted to portray a setting like Hawaii, they could have gotten a lot more scenery in. This gets a lot better toward the end in the final scenes. All in all this film is great to look at.

There are some great images of the water and coral. I wondered if they were done with real video or made with cgi. I think a combo is the best and it seems like that’s what they used here. When the water rises up in an anthropomorphic way, it’s spectacular. I have to give kudos to the animators once again.

I highly recommend Moana, though it’s doing very well without my recommendation. There is some humor thrown in with a quest, inspiring music, and Polynesian folklore.

Miracle On 34th Street

Young Natalie Wood is skeptical about the existence of Santa Claus. A few verification tugs on his beard get her on the long path to believing.

This film is such a great Christmas classic on many levels. You have the black and white retro props which weren’t retro in the 40’s when this was made. In other words, the props are real! Beyond that you have a timeless story with powerhouse and legendary actors.


Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

“When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.” -IMDB

Cast

Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Gene Lockhart

Directed by

George Seaton

Written by

George Seaton, Valentine Davies

Other Info

Comedy, Crime, Drama, Family
TV-G
Fri 02 May 1947 UTC
101min
IMDB Rating: 7.9

This is one of those family films that has appeal for both kids and adults. Its written in such a way that there is something for everyone to relate with. For example, there is a drunk imitation Santa who gets his just desserts. There’s a young man who plays Santa as part of the union and gets advice from the man himself. Theres a hardened divorcee trying to raise her daughter without make believe and her suitor bachelor who sees a flaw in that. Finally, among many entertaining characters is Kris Kringle, the man who almost gets committed to an asylum for claiming he is Santa Claus.

There is a romance here along with a court drama, intelligent comedy, and a hint of childhood Christmas magic. I recommend to all.

American Crime

Crime shows are great because they’re interesting and fun. This new show is a crime show that definitely lives up to that reputation. It is also gritty. It presents cases in full light rather than just the attractive aspects.


American Crime

American Crime

“The lives of the participants in a trial with significant racial motives are forever changed during the legal process.” -IMDB

Cast

Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, Elvis Nolasco

Directed by

Written by

John Ridley

Other Info

Drama
TV-14
2015
43min
IMDB Rating: 7.7

I binge watched S01 and really enjoyed it. The story is well written and the acting is superb. Felicity Huffman is my favorite character in the season, she plays a somewhat cold mother of a murdered son who is driven to colder extremes based on the way the court and law enforcement system puts her through the ringer.

Timothy Hutton also does a great job as her ex-husband. He’s trying to make it in the world after some troubles with the law. We see a few examples of that as we follow this case to its season conclusion. There isn’t much “feel good” material here. It starts with a murder and rape and through the course of the season we learn probably more than we want to about both. It is a bit like a mystery and in the end there are a few twists.

It is not a feel good show and therefore not for everyone. It can be quite violent but the violence serves to drive the story and make things more believable.

I really enjoyed this crime drama. I recommend it to fans of the genre and for those who enjoy revealing legal details and tacit rules the police and legal system follow, often in secret.

The Exploding Girl

College can be a rough time, even for those who are 100% healthy. In this case, we have a protagonist with epilepsy. She’s trying to find love that eludes her time and time again.


The Exploding Girl

The Exploding Girl

“On a summer break from college, a young epileptic woman struggles to balance her feelings for her fledgling boyfriend while her friend Al crashes with her for the season.” -IMDB

Cast

Zoe Kazan, Mark Rendall, Maryann Urbano, Hunter Canning

Directed by

Bradley Rust Gray

Written by

Bradley Rust Gray

Other Info

Drama
Unrated
Thu 06 May 2010 UTC
79min
IMDB Rating: 6.3

I like films like this that look almost like hidden camera footage. When a girl and her roommate stay up watching TV, hanging off the couch talking about life, you are among them. It’s really a hard time when you’re out of high school in your early years of adulthood. You want the job, the enjoyment, and the love that culture promises and yet, it doesn’t translate that way.

We see a girl who is stuck in unrequited love, trying to improve a relationship tat is sadly one-sided. When one is new at love, there is so much that has to be learned the hard way. Then, there is the “Ducky” type of friend who shares her apartment. Is their friendship destined to stay platonic or will it grow into a sexual thing.

Thes are the basic elements of this film. My wife thought it dragged on a bit. I, on the other hand, liked the mysterious ether-like feeling of the film. For me, it was a peering into the life of a brave young girl with no answers. I found it inspiring in an odd way. Maybe because I don’t yet have the answers and I felt for her in that stage of life. I recommend it as a thoughtful romantic drama.

4.5 Stars4.5 / 5

The Edge of Seventeen

This film was marketed incorrectly and that’s too bad. I think some will pass on it because it looks like Emma Stone getting an easy a or some derivative of a party and sex themed high school movie. It’s not like that at all.


The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen

“High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.” -IMDB

Cast

Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick

Directed by

Kelly Fremon Craig

Written by

Kelly Fremon Craig

Other Info

Comedy, Drama
R
Fri 18 Nov 2016 UTC
104min
IMDB Rating: 7.9

This film is about real people going through changes in life. It has dark segments and dark comedy as well. There are elements of the high school comedy but they only serve to drive the depth of the story. It is all interwoven especially well.

This film shows what its film-making generation can do at a pristine level. Instead of relying on recycled paradigms of successful party films.

The acting is great. I’d say her brother is too huge and too buff. I might have opted for a more “Ducky” sort.

Other than his though, which is only just less than perfect, all the performances are fantastic.

One topic delved into is the mental-health topic of depression. With high schoolers, it can be hard to draw a clear line between regular growing pains and depression. This films shows the blurred line and then lets the audience draw its own distinction.

The protagonist is beautiful, I hope to see her in more films. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I recommend it to all, preteens through adults.

Snowden

I’ve seen paranoia around the ideas of NSA among friends and co-workers. I thought most of it was unfounded until I saw this film, Snowden. I’ll modify what I just said just a hair, I’ll replace the word “paranoia with “awareness.” People need to be aware of the surveillance going on in our private lives.

snowden-movie-poster

Snowden
Cast

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto

Directed by

Oliver Stone

Written by

Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone

Other Info

Biography, Drama, Thriller
R
Fri 16 Sep 2016 UTC
134min
IMDB Rating: 7.4

Snowden is quite a character. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I can’t say I would give up a posh home in Hawaii and a romantic lover just to inform the press about the snooping the government does. That’s just what he did though. Furthermore, he’s given up any chance of walking down Central Park or swimming at the California beaches. He did it for “us?”

Most of us know our employers monitor our internet use along with things like keystrokes on our work computers. They could have cameras everywhere and often do because they are your employer and they’ll fire us if we don’t like it. What I didn’t know until I saw this enlightening true story is that they have access to our wi-fi and other monitoring mechanisms in our homes. They monitor the world in hopes of preventing terrorism. I guess it’s working pretty well right? There hasn’t been another 9-11?

We see Snowden rise up in the ranks of the FBI and reveal for us the many ways the NSA peers into our private lives. It’s fairly well done. The way one reacts to is will depend on ones political sensitivities. Snowden is a real guy. You can Google him. AS a movie this is pretty good. It’s the subject matter that truly makes it worth the watch. But as you do, just remember, they may be watching you. You might ask yourself, as I did, if Snowden is a hero or just a guy who had enough. I recommend it for fans of the drama and mystery genres as well as those interested in the subject of internet privacy.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hands on activities are always better for kids. Getting away from a desk and into the wilderness would be an effective way to foster problem solving skills in a child. What’s more, real life problems yield better solutions than ones in book at a desk in a public school. These are ideals I agree with, even as a public school teacher myself.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Cast

Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House

Directed by

Taika Waititi

Written by

Taika Waititi, Barry Crump

Other Info

Adventure, Comedy, Drama
PG-13
Thu 31 Mar 2016 UTC
101min
IMDB Rating: 7.9

This is a quirky and strange movie if you don’t pour some sort of meaning into it. Early on, I had a meaning I got from it and that’s why I think I enjoyed it so much. I’ll tell you what it was, as long as you remember that movies are like all art: you get out what you perceive from it.

The evil social worker lady represented the restrictive educational policies of George Bush. They were called. as most will recall, “No Child Left Behind.” She in fact repeats this phrase many times as her battle cry to find the protagonist. It’s also derived from the bumper sticker wisdom: “All who wander are not lost.”

This film looks a lot like Moonrise Kingdom in its silliness and campy presentation. Some will find humor in that alone. A preteen juvenile delinquent keeps escaping from school and eventually, after his caretaker aunt dies, he goes on a wilderness expedition with his “step-uncle.” A bunch of stuff happens, some interesting, some funny, some dull. At any rate, it becomes another aphorism: “Life is a journey.” It’s made to show how much more this child gets out of surviving with his uncle than he would in public school, or the juvenile correctional system anyway. The actors are all speaking in australian accents which makes it seem like an independent film (which in fact it is).

If you’re willing to sit through a whole movie of goofiness to see this director’s point about open and unbridled education, you’ll probably laugh a lot. I’ve seen better quirkiness like this in the film Nacho Libre. That’s also about an underdog who emerges victorious … and the jokes are funny. I’d recommend this film for fans of understated humor and who don’t agree with restrictive educational policies. I’d say it will be liked six and one half-dozen the other by the general public.

Trolls

The Trolls in this film are not ugly like the dashboard ones of the 80’s. Instead they are endearing, cute, and presented in vibrant colors. The powerful colors reminded me of those in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Vibrant colors help to deliver a message of happiness and finding it in yourself and through love. This film can be enjoyed by anyone but those around the toddler age will certainly be playing over and over, singing and dancing to the music.

trolls_image

Trolls
Cast

Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Directed by

Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell

Written by

Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger

Other Info

Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical
PG
Fri 04 Nov 2016 UTC
92min
IMDB Rating: 6.7

If you get into upbeat music, you’ll like the movie. If you like cute animation with a decent story, you’ll love this film.

The main idea of this film is that we all have happiness inside us. The ugly creatures have to eat Trolls in order to be happy and obviously, this doesn’t go well with them. Through a random course of events, the Trolls have to show the ugly creatures they can be happy on their own and in fact, the happiness was inside them all along.

The music is powerful and makes this movie a better animation film than others. You have the music and voices of Justin Timberlake, Zoe Deschanel, Anna Kendrick, and more. Supporting the music is amazing animation in a colorful style we haven’t seen … ever before I think it’s safe to say. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears. The story is also very cute which makes it all the more suited for the younger ones.

I’d recommend this film for everyone who likes the elements I have mentioned but especially kids ages 4-9. If you’re like me you may find you are a kid at heart because I really loved this film. Because it won’t be for everyone, it lost just 1/2 a star.

Under the Shadow

While this is a horror film, it sheds important light on the 8 year war between Iraq and Iran. I found it amazing to watch what these two middle eastern countries did to each other, each in the name of its god. There is a strong and scary film here. It’s not horror in every scene but there are enough jump scares to keep fans happy.

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Under the Shadow
Cast

Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian

Directed by

Babak Anvari

Written by

Babak Anvari

Other Info

Horror
PG-13
Fri 07 Oct 2016 UTC
84min
IMDB Rating: 7.1

This is the story of a mother and her daughter in time of war. Both suffer extreme stress levels as the father/husband has to leave them alone to go and be a doctor in the war for a time. While home alone in a war zone, the mother and daughter experience a strange haunting that neither can explain.

I saw a comparison to The Babadook early on. It’s a psychological drama that has horror elements. There are times we do not know if the scary elements are real or just stress induced psychosis from the mother. The daughter has these visions too though so it seems something is happening. It’s hard I think to explain away a lot of what happens. It is in my opinion indeed a legend, a ghost story. How much the viewer wants to believe depends on her/him.

This film does have subtitles so if that puts you off, stay away. As for me I found them easy to follow and greatly enjoyed this foreign horror film. The casting and acting is top-notch. This is a must for horror fans as well as psychological drama ones.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Asking me to rate a Harry Potter spinoff/prequel is a lot like asking a mean old man in the mid 1950’s to rate a Beatles album. To him it’s shit. To me this is shit. I was twisting and turning in my seat the entire time. I related with very little, which is an important feature for me in a film.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Cast

Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler

Directed by

David Yates

Written by

J.K. Rowling

Other Info

Adventure, Family, Fantasy
PG-13
Fri 18 Nov 2016 UTC
133min
IMDB Rating: 7.8

I had some interest in the Harry Potter films, emphasize SOME, but this new film has just enough in it to keep the die-hard-trekkie types reeled in. I even saw a compatriot teacher I recognized dressed in a Harry Potter hooded witch costume, replete with wand and glasses. That’s when I knew I really shouldn’t have come.

I won’t waste your time saying much about this film, I’m simply not qualified due to my lack of interest in Harry Potter films. The beasts are as cool as to be expected. J.K Rowling is a billionaire from her many Harry exploits so it stands to reason she would spare no expense in creating cool CGI beasts. The trouble is, you don’t see them much. In fact, you have to wait very long before you get to gaze upon them for any length of time. I loved some of these beasts. They should have had them gracing the screen much more than they did.

I won’t attempt to give you the story line here because it isn’t interesting and this film really didn’t resonate with me enough to care to do that. I usually give a summary, here I won’t it isn’t worth your time. I haven’t walked out of a film in several years. The last one I recall walking out on was The Passion of the Christ (2004). I’ve actually never reviewed that film and for good reason. It falls into the Mel Gibson line of beating the hell out of the protagonist. I guess I wasnt in the mood that day.

Eddie Redmayne was just ok in this. I wanted to slap him he mumbled so much. I wasn’t impressed by his wand either. Why is Ezra Miller in this? I usually like him too but all I could think about when seeing him was: “Oh crap, another big name actor that will merit making a backstory thereby making this film longer.”

I could go on but I won’t.

The only people I can recommend this for are those with Harry Potter action figures and costumery. They are so starved for a new film, they may enjoy this one. As for me? I’m glad I walked out and went through the mall to buy my wife See’s caramels instead.