Monthly Archives: August 2013

Movies that Unexpectedly Make you Cry – Katy Perry: Part of Me

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On a lazy summer day I joined my teenaged daughters to watch Katy Perry:  Part of Me (2013 PG).  The autobiographical movie follows singer Katy Perry as she talks about her early career and current success while on a very busy tour the summer of 2012.  Her songs are slightly familiar to me, but the concerts were amazing because she took “candy” as a theme.  The sets and dancers and costumes are so much fun, although they are a bit over-the-top!

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Just as I’m getting to know Katy, I get hit with something that makes me tear up – sick kids.  Katy meets with fans who, through the Make A Wish Foundation, get special back stage attention.  She is so sweet with them!  I grab some Kleenex.

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Katy is newly married to English comedian Russell Brand, but is forced to spend much of the time apart.  We follow her texts with her husband, and her impulsive flights to see him, but we start to see that the marriage is struggling.

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Of course, we already know that they get divorced after only 14 months of marriage, but watching hard-working Katy as she struggles is heart breaking.

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She finally breaks.  The crowds are waiting for her, her dancers are waiting for her, her hair and makeup and costume team is waiting for her, but all she can do is curl up and cry.  I cry for her, too.  So many people rely on her for their careers.  She is so young, only 27, yet thousands of people are relying on her that very moment.  Will she be able to go on stage?  The drama is real.  The sorrow is real.

Maybe I was just sensitive, because we had just gone through the stress and fun of our own daughter’s stage production.  Now, of course, she isn’t as important to the play as Katy is to her concert, but still.  The emotion is the same.

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Austenland: A Movie by Women for Women

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My teenaged daughters and a friend and I went to see the movie Austenland (2013 PG-13).  It is a modern romantic comedy of a woman who goes to an immersion Jane Austen resort in England, and must dress and behave as a proper lady of an English manor of 1810.  At the theater, the manager mentioned that for the previous night, people in the audience came in Regency costumes!  I’m sorry I missed seeing that!

Jane (Keri Russell) is a 30-somthing fan of Jane Austen’s books, and the movies that have been made from them.  Think Sense and Sensability.  Think BBC.  She has idealized romance and proper behavior to the extent that she can not be happy dating any man who doesn’t live up to Austen’s early 19th century standards.  Especially as portrayed by Colin Firth‘s Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995).  The back story of her obsession is a little awkward, as it is difficult to tell what era and age Jane is being portrayed in (college in the 1990’s? a travel agent from the 1980’s?).  But once she gets to England the story really takes off.

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Jane Seymour is perfect as uptight Austenland hostess Mrs. Wattlesbrook, who strives for a romantic pairing for each of her guests.  Jennifer Coolidge is silly in her dress and her manners, as an American having fun trying to be proper and British.  Georgia King is the third guest hilariously over-acting her part as a wealthy young English aristocrat. The sets are great in that they show how touches of the modern sneak in, and how the actors relax when not playing house maid or dashing romantic man.  Fun movie!

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My husband knew this movie was not for him.  Our audience of women laughed and sighed and appreciated the film.  That’s likely because women made it.

Austenland is based on the novel by Shannon Hale, who co-wrote the screenplay with another woman, Jerusha Hess (writer of Nacho Libre and Napoleon Dynamite).  Hess also directed (her first time).  Of the seven producer-type people, four are female, including Stephanie Meyer (Twilight author).

I met Shannon Hale at a book signing (I forget my camera), and have enjoyed following her blog.  I caught her cameo in the movie!  She is passionate about the need for more women-made films.  “Please, go see Austenland. Vote with your wallet…Encourage those skeptics in Hollywood. Convince them that backing something with a few women in it and written by women isn’t such a huge risk. People do want variety. They do want to hear women’s voices. They do want to see actual real women on the screen doing things besides just getting saved in the end and kissing the male star.”

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I like Austenland the book and Austenland the film.  You should try both!

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Oprah Winfrey’s The Butler

Think of your most memorable teacher.  Or your favorite professional athlete.  Or one of your loved relatives.  Think of all the times you’ve seen him or her.

Now imagine them starring in a movie.

Would you be able to enjoy the movie, and get lost in the story?  Or would you always be seeing the teacher, the athlete, or the relative?

That is the problem with Lee DanielsThe Butler (2013 PG-13).

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Forest Whitaker is Cecil Gaines, an African-American who begins his career as a White House butler in the 1950’s for President Eisenhower and retires three decades later during Reagan’s administration.  Based on the true story of Eugene Allen, the movie used Gaines’ quiet dignity as a backdrop for the often turbulent civil rights struggles of our country.  It’s fun to see famous actors playing the presidents!

Gaines’ two sons show the difficulties of being African-American in the 1950’s through 1990’s.  His older son, Louis (David Oyelowo), carries the civil rights story for the audience by being involved with many of the protest  activities of the time; a sit-in at an all-white diner, riding the Freedom Bus, meeting Dr Martin Luther King, attending a Black Panther’s meeting, running for congress.  This is a very good way to make history real for the audience.  Very well-done!

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Oprah Winfrey plays Cecil’s wife Gloria.  And that is the problem.  You see, Oprah is a talented actress, but she is so well known for her talk show and her philanthropy and her magazine, that I found it impossible to forget her.  Every scene she was in I saw Oprah.  Oprah serving dinner for her family.  Oprah dancing along to Soul Train.  Oprah sitting on the front porch with the neighbors.

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But don’t let that stop you from seeing the movie.  It is well done and tells an important story that we must never forget.

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The Cup Song

Pitch Perfect (2012 PG-13) is a fun movie about a loner, Beca (Anna Kendrick), who joins a college girls’ competitive a cappella singing group.  For her audition, she sings while making rhythm noises on a plastic cup.  This was fun for me to see, because at junior high church camp we always played this game around the table while waiting for meals!  None of us thought about singing along back then.

The song was so popular, that the director Jason Moore released a music video of the song.  Watch the long long long shot where the camera follows the action from room to room without cutting.  Once the song starts, how many shots do you count?

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I count two long camera shots! Amazing!  Fun song!

PS.  We saw this first on an airplane, and then again at home.  The airplane version cut out several lines due to suggestive language and one part that had to do with vomit and snow angels.  The movie was better without it.

PPS.  And the movie poster does not convey the feeling of the movie at all.

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Pacific Rim: Robots Beat Up Godzilla

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I wasn’t excited about seeing Pacific Rim (2013 PG-13).  From the previews, it just looked like giant robots punching giant monsters. And the movie turned out to be just that – giant robots punching giant monsters.  And it was pretty cool!

Director Guillermo del Toro creates a richly layered future where a split in the floor of the Pacific Ocean is releasing giant monsters, called kaiju, which smash up coastal cities. We see scientists study them, cities building walls to block them, national leaders working together to eliminate the threat, citizens rebelling against rationing, and the black market for kaiju body parts.  But mostly we get to see how the military responds by building big robots called jaegers.  I like how the pilots and robots from different countries develop symbolism similar to fighter pilots and bombardiers.

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These jaegers must be controlled by the brain and body of two pilots who undergo “the Drift”, which means they share memories and get in sync to make their two bodies work to move the one jaeger.  It is best for these two pilots to have similar memories, so most teams are made up of brothers, father and son, or husband and wife.

But why does the American pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), when he needs a new partner,  choose his new partner by fighting a bunch of people with sticks?

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Why do the jaeger try to eliminate the kaiju by hitting them?  Surely the military can come up with some other sort of weapon.

Anyway, the best stick fighter is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who survived a Japanese kaiju attack as a little girl.  But Commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is hesitant to let her fight in the jaeger.  Again, the great thing is how subtly the story unfolds.  The commander has an occasional bloody nose.  Why?  The girl is respectful but persistent.  Why?  Director del Toro will slowly build up to the answers.

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There is much that is good about this movie.  The scientists, while playing into odd-ball stereotypes, are smart comic relief who, in the end, are as important as the rock-star pilots. The jaeger support crew are portrayed as part of a completely dedicated military complex.  The Chinese and Russian pilot teams are given enough screen time to establish their elite status while still conveying the ever-present possibility of being killed while fighting a kaiju.  The Irish team gets more plot time to show the emotional complexities of a father-son pilot team, with themes of sacrifice and honor.

Fun movie!

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Despicable Me 2: A Special Family Review

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We took a break from a family vacation at the beach to catch a great movie!  Despicable Me 2 (2013 PG) continues the story of reformed evil villain Gru (Steve Carell) and his small yellow Minions as he balances parenthood with spying.  Is El Macho (Benjamin Bratt) an evil villain, or simply a man with a secret salsa recipe?  Gru and fellow Anti-Villain League agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) will soon find out!  There were only two other families in the theater with us, and we were laughing so loud the entire time that we may have disrupted their viewing experience!  Fun movie!

Here is my family’s review:

What did you like about the movie?  The adults, some of who did not see the first Despicable Me (2010),  said it was funny for all age levels, without going over the edge.  The 1970’s references also were good.  The teenagers liked that it stayed funny the whole movie without getting too scary for their little cousin, and they appreciated the carefully scripted clever lines.  The youngest one thought the purple guys were funny, and liked it when the Minions imitated the sound of a fire engine.

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Yes, that’s Isaac from “The Love Boat” as one of the funny 1970’s references.

How could the movie be better?  “It couldn’t,” said my daughter.  No one else had any suggestions, with one person saying, “I enjoyed all of it – no negatives for me.”

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The yellow Minions happily live and work with Gru and his three adoptive daughters – until they start mysteriously disappearing!

Who would enjoy this movie?  “Anyone with a sense of humor.”  “All ages.”  “Families with kids as young as 6.” “Everyone.”

Thanks for helping with this review!  You can see we all highly recommend this movie for everyone!

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