Paper Towns: Not Really for Parents


Can you like a movie when you disagree with the behavior of the characters?

In Paper Towns (2015 PG-13), directed by Jake Schreier, a group of high school seniors search for a friend who left clues to her whereabouts.


I like seeing the depth of the friendship between the boys (from right) Quentin (Nat Wolff), Radar (Justice Smith), and Ben (Austin Abrams).  They have been together since they were little, and have an easy rapport.  Good acting, good dialogue when they are together.  At one point they break out in song, and although I have no idea what they are singing, the fun they have while singing it makes me happy for them.

As a parent, I couldn’t stand the other parts of the movie.

The Girls


Just because the girls are pretty, the boys do bizarre things for them.  I had to lean over and whisper to my teenage daughters several times and tell them never to act like that.  Yes, you can see someone roll their eyes at you in a darkened theater.


The Parents


Does it tell you something when I cannot find any studio photos of the parents in the movie?


The girl everyone is searching for (Cara Delevingne) has run away over the years, just for the adventure of it all.  She always leaves clues to let people know she is okay.  Her parents (Susan Macke Miller and Tom Hillmann) have a brief scene with the police where they say she can just stay away if she wants, because they are tired of her leaving all the time.  I completely agree, but the audience is supposed to think they are uncaring.

The other parents are barely there, and only cause embarrassment for their teens.


Are you a parent, or a teen?  Do you have to be a teen to like the movie?

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Newsies: A Movie for Labor Day


Whatever your view on the current state of labor unions, you must agree that a century ago labor unions were essential in helping the little guy.

To celebrate Labor Day weekend, watch Newsies (1992, PG), a musical based on the 1899 news paper boy strike.


Yes, that is a young Christian Bale (with red scarf) as the star of this musical.

Watch the trailer below.  It conveys the drama and excitement of the movie quite well.

A generation of kids grew up watching Newsies.  They missed the great musicals of the 1950’s, such as Oklahoma and Singing in the Rain, but may have watched The Sound of Music with their parents on TV.

Newsies was their musical, in which kids just like them sang and danced and beat the grown ups.  These kids grew up, and ran dance studios, and had the next generation of kids performing to Newsies.

Wanna know where the cast from Newsies is today?  It’s all here.

What’s your favorite scene from Newsies?

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War Room: The Power of Prayer


Gather your church friends.  You know, the ones who raise their hands and say “Amen”.  Go see War Room together.

I did.  So did everyone else in our theater opening weekend.  We talked to the screen.  We burst into applause several times during the movie.  Some quoted scripture along with the actors.  Many had tears in their eyes.

War Room (2015 PG) is created by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, brothers who have released many movies for a Christian audience.  Each one gets better, with stronger acting, better dialogue, and higher production values.


Elizabeth (Priscilla C. Shirer) argues so much with her husband that she forgets about her daughter (Alena Pitts).


Tony (T. C. Stallings) spends more time at work than with his family.

This family is on the brink of crisis, until Elizabeth meets Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie).  She guides Elizabeth on how to pray for her family.  Of course, it isn’t as simple as that, and the road to joy is not smooth.


Skip the trailer and just go see this powerful movie.

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Ant-Man: Too Many Bugs for Me


Ant-Man (2015 PG-13), directed by Peyton Reed, is a super hero movie that is clever and witty and fits in nicely with the rest of the Avengers universe.

But there were too many bugs for me to enjoy it.  I couldn’t laugh when the audience laughed.  I couldn’t “ohh” when the Avengers references were made.  Too many bugs.  Literally.

Ants.  All over the screen.  Ick.  Yuck.  Gross.

Even now, safe at home, writing about the movie makes me squirm.  But that’s just me.

You, if you like Agents of Shield and Iron Man and Hulk and Captain America and Avengers, you will like this movie.

Stay to the very very end for a nice tie in to other Marvel movies.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

Scott the crook finds a strange suit instead of money in an old man’s house. Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014.

Marvel's Ant-Man L to R: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2014

Old Dr. Pym needs Scott to be Ant-Man so they can stop the bald bad guy, who becomes Yellowjacket. L to R: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2014


Dr Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is undercover trying to help.


Scott’s friends (T. I., Michael Pena, and David Dastmalchian) help him break in.


Scott has a daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) and ex-wife (Judy Greer).


That’s me suffering in a swarm of bugs.

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Max: A Standout Movie in a Summer of Sequels


Here are the movies currently showing near me:

Minions – animated sequel aimed at kids and parents

Magic Mike XXL – sequel aimed at women

Terminator Genisys – sequel aimed at men

Ted 2 – sequel aimed at Milenials

Jurassic World – sequel aimed at everyone

Pitch Perfect 2 – sequel aimed at show choir teens

Spy –  soon to have sequel

San Andreas – non sequel disaster flick

Inside Out – animated movie about depression

The Gallows – scary

Self/Less – not sure

Max – patriotic dog

All those movies, yet the choices are rather limited to something like we’ve already seen.  My advice:  Go see Max (2015 PG).


If you’ve seen any of those other movies this summer, you’ve probably seen the trailer to Max.  Pretend you didn’t.  The trailer does not match the real movie.


Big brother Kyle (Robbie Amell) is a Marine dog handler who gets killed in action.  Max, the dog, can’t work in the battlefield anymore and is adopted reluctantly by teen brother Justin (Josh Wiggins).  Justin’s parents (Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham) grieve and try to understand sullen Justin, who would rather hang with his friends.


The movie is about how Max the dog and Justin grow together, and how they work together to solve a mystery.  Adventure, humor, grief, and teen friendship all mix together lightly to create a quality adventure movie.

That’s it.  A well acted, well written, fun movie that all ages will enjoy!


You could look deeper.

The movie shows the self doubt and posturing teens go through to try to figure out how they fit in their world.  When your older cousin is a thug, how should you handle it?  Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) struggles with this, and we see his normally jokey personality become subdued.  Carmen (Mia Xitlali) plays the tough girl, yet she is really just testing boundaries and wants approval.

Hero worship is tricky.  Marine buddy Tyler (Luke Kleintank) returns home to adulation, yet in private he is cynical about the whole military situation.  Justin’s dad was wounded in the first Gulf War, and doesn’t tell his story anymore.

Chuy’s cousin is the same age as Justin’s brother – they were on the wrestling team together in high school.  After high school, the choices you make steer your life’s path (brother becomes hero, cousin becomes criminal).

Justin’s parents a regular people busy working and parenting their sons.  Maybe over the years they forgot they were in love with each other.  See how tentatively they hold hands on the Fourth of July.



Go see Max!

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San Andreas: A Movie for Rescue Workers?


I am a California girl, who grew up with Smog Alerts and earthquake drills.

My husband is a volunteer rescue worker, who trains with a local and a national team.

I wanted to see San Andreas (2015 PG-13), directed by Brad Peyton.  He would go with me only if he was allowed to critique the actors’ rescue techniques.


I’ve asked the question before:  Can a teacher enjoy a classroom movie?  Do police officers like watching cop shows?  Do lawyers approve of courtroom dramas?

For my rescue worker, the answer is, “No.”


Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a rescue-chopper pilot with the Los Angeles Fire Department.  Throughout the movie we see him fly helicopters and use rope to hang from the chopper to rescue people.  My husband could barely eat any popcorn because he was so busy telling me everything Ray did wrong.

The movie got one rescue thing right:  When his helicopter is damaged and has to land without engine power, Ray uses autorotation to land safely.  Here is Cal Fire doing a practice autorotation landing:

Did you watch this video?  It’s boring, right?  Maybe it’s good for training purposes, but there is no drama.  That’s where Hollywood is allowed to be inaccurate.  Accurate is dull and tedious!


Same with the earthquake stuff.  The LA Times listed five things the movie got wrong about earthquakes, and one thing it got right.  Look at the great pictures in the article!  The movie would be blah without great earthquake destruction scenes – even if they are unlikely in real life!

To me, this is a fun disaster movie with real world lessons on how to survive an earthquake.  You could read the California Department of Conservation article on what to do.  But I learned it all in the movie:

  1. If you run around in a panic, you will be crushed by falling buildings.
  2. If you stay on a bridge or dam or skyscraper, you will be killed.
  3. If you are mean to someone, even during moments of panic, you will later be crushed.
  4. Don’t stand in doorways; instead, hide under a desk or along side a sturdy wall.
  5. If you get doused with gasoline, change clothes quickly so you don’t catch fire and die.
  6. To increase your chance of survival, learn how to hot wire cars, drive motor boats, and fly planes.
  7. Always wear a skimpy tank under your shirt, so you can use your shirt as a bandage for hotties.
  8. If you are uncertain what to do, officials probably will help you (security guards, police, fire, paramedics, FIMA).

And this is what my husband couldn’t see in the movie:  All the officials trained to help in an emergency did just that, and at great personal risk.  We saw security guards calmly guiding people out of buildings. We saw police directing traffic.  We saw FIMA’s relief camp.  We saw firefighters working on blazes.


Thank God for the selfless public servants who help in our time of need!

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Terminator Genisys: Actors from Elsewhere


Terminator Genisys (2015 PG-13), directed by Alan Taylor, has what you would expect:  Unstoppable robot assassins who look like people, time travel confusion, lots of fights and explosions and car crashes.  If you’ve never seen a Terminator movie, you will still be able to understand and enjoy.  If you’ve seen all the movies, and the TV series, you will love the dialogue that draws from Terminator history.

For me, too many actors reminded me of their other roles.  Here is where you may remember them from (from left):


Byung-hun Lee is the first assassin we meet in Terminator Genisys.  You may know him from G. I. Joe.


Jason Clarke is lead resistance fighter John Connor.  To me he is the sad-sack guy from The Great Gatsby.


This is the first time I’ve seen Emilia Clarke, and I was impressed with her combined youthfulness and strength.  But she is well known for Game of Thrones.


Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course, is the reason for Terminator movies.  Watch how he ages, watch how he fights himself, watch how he cares for young Sarah Connor.


Jai Courtney is sent to save Sarah Conner.  Although he is good in this role, I couldn’t shake the memory of him as the nasty rotten guy in Divergent.


Two other minor characters are too well known for other roles to become their Terminator character.

Matt Smith is Dr. Who.  And only Dr. Who.  Not some resistance fighter in the future.


J. K. Simmons is the guy who won the Academy Award for that movie no one saw.  His acceptance speech was memorable, however.

WHIPLASH - 2014 FILM STILL - (L-R): Miles Teller AND JK Simmons - Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden/Courtesy of  Sundance Institute

WHIPLASH – 2014 FILM STILL – (L-R): Miles Teller AND JK Simmons – Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Have fun watching this movie!

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