Monthly Archives: April 2014

Heaven Is For Real, and the Movie is Pretty Good, Too


Heaven is for Real (2014 PG) recounts the story of a 4-year-old boy, Colton (Connor Corum), who nearly dies during an emergency appendectomy, then surprises his family over the next months with comments about seeing heaven.  His father, Todd (Greg Kinnear), is a rural pastor who struggles with what to believe about the heaven his son is talking about.  His mother, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), believes Colton is just repeating what he’s heard in church and in Bible stories all his life.  Colton’s big sister, Cassie (Lane Styles), doesn’t like when classmates make fun of Colton’s heaven stories.

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The book came out in 2010 and reads like a father’s musing over his son’s amazing experience.



When we watch a faith-based movie like this, we have to separate our opinions into two categories.


1.  Is Heaven for Real?

Colton says in heaven, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”  Colton says he spoke with Jesus, and He was nice.  You can either believe in heaven, believe that Colton saw heaven, or not believe in heaven at all. Because of my Christian faith, I believe in heaven.  To me, it doesn’t matter what Colton saw in heaven.  It doesn’t matter if there are streets of gold or what age my body in heaven will be. I simply believe that heaven will be a wonderful place.  Even if you don’t believe in heaven, you can answer the second question.

Kelly Reilly

2.  Is the movie any good?

The movie is really about a family in crisis and how they struggle and how they support each other.  There are money issues.  Health issues.  The church threatens to fire Pastor Todd because of his heaven talk.

Now, the big beautiful farmhouse they live in does not look like something that a struggling firefighter/garage installer/pastor would live in; there should be some peeling paint or battered equipment laying around.  And a few of the supporting cast are not great actors, so the scenes with them, in which we should see how Todd is a friendly pillar of the community, are forced.

But the key actors are spot-on!  You feel the struggle Sonja has to support her husband in is conflict. You can feel the financial pinch the family is in, and know that there is no way out.  Todd is under pressure to financially support his family, guide his church, show love to his kids and wife, and keep his side businesses afloat.  All while wrestling with the things that little Colton has told him.  Cassie doesn’t get much screen time, but when she does she acts seamlessly.  And little Colton is adorable.





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The Enduring Fun of Frozen


It has been months since Frozen (2013 PG), Disney‘s animated musical, has been in theaters.  Yet for some reason this movie has taken hold of Americans more than other Disney movies recently.  Can you name any of the characters from Brave (2012 PG)?  Can you sing more than the first line of the chorus of Mother Knows Best from Tangled(2010 PG)?


My teenaged daughters dressed up as Elsa and Anna.

Our family went to WonderCon, an annual comic book, science fiction, and motion picture convention in Anaheim, California.  What fun!  Many people came dressed as characters from Spider Man, Dr Who, Star Wars, Batman and Disney.

Watch as people gather for a spontaneous singing of Frozen songs:

What is your favorite song from Frozen?  Or do you prefer other Disney movies?

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Noah: A Bizarre Retelling of a Classic Story


When a well-known book or story is made into a movie, everyone knows there will be differences.  Do the differences matter?  Do they make the story richer?  Or do the differences detract from the original story?

Noah (2014 PG-13) is a well-known story made into a movie.  Let’s talk about the differences between the movie and the story, and if the differences make the story richer, or detract from the story.

The original story says that God did not like all the wicked things people were doing (remember, God created people), so God decides to send a flood to destroy everyone except for Noah and his family.  So, Noah is given specific instructions on how to build a big boat.  He is told to collect a male and female of every animal and place them in the ark.  When the rains start, eight people are on the ark (Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives) and God closes the door.  Noah, his family, and all those creatures are saved to repopulate the world.

You can find this in the Bible and in Wikipedia.


Many people over the centuries have wondered about what it was like on that ark!

Differences that make the story richer:

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1.  The brothers are given personalities.  Big brother Shem (Douglass Booth) has his wife (Emma Watson) and his role as eldest son.  Little brother Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) is the adorable mama’s boy.  But middle son Ham (Logan Lerman) struggles for his place in this isolated family.  Is he a boy, or a man, in his father’s eyes?  These family dynamics make the story more interesting.


2.  The Watchers help build the ark.  It’s hard to build a huge boat with just your family.  The Watchers in the movie are fallen angels (I think) that become rock-men.  They decide that Noah is good, and will help him build the ark and protect him and his family.  I think it’s fine to add this supernatural element to the construction scenes.


3.  The animals arrive on their own. The animals just show up, and sleep because of the incense Noah’s family burns.  That’s a good way to do it, actually!

Russell Crowe as Noah

4.  When the rains come, the people want on the boat. This makes perfect sense, and adds to the drama of the escape.  When the family is safe in the ark, and there are still people clinging to life in the rising waters outside, you can hear their cries for help, and it breaks your heart.

Differences that are bizarre:


1.  Two sons are missing wives.  Little Japheth is too young for a wife.  Middle son Ham is looking at a life without a bride if he can’t find someone before the flood.  He takes matters into his own hands and finds  good girl Na’el (Madison Davenport) among the evil society.  As they run to the boat she is injured.  Mean dad Noah (Russell Crowe) makes Ham leave her behind.  Why did the filmmakers do this?  The story could have still been interesting and dramatic with all three sons having wives.  But don’t worry, the oldest son’s wife will give birth to twin girls.  Wives for the other sons.  Ewwww!


2.  There is a stowaway on the ark.  The king of the people (Ray Winstone) actually hacks his way into the ark during the rising flood and with a bloody injured leg.  He lives in secret, eating the animals sleeping around him.  This leads to a big dramatic fight between him and Noah, with knives and spears and axes.  Really – a stowaway? An ax fight?


3.  Noah goes crazy and decides the whole family must die.  This difference put me over the edge.  His logic is that he and his family are really no better than all the people that died.  His wife (Jennifer Connelly) is appalled and does whatever she can to protect her children, including helping her oldest son and his pregnant wife escape on a raft.  Homicidal maniac Noah?

Those three strange differences the movie takes from the story are just too much for me!  Too bad – it started out a fun movie!



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Divergent: Did You Read the Book First?

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I did not read Divergent (Veronica Roth) the book first.  Divergent (2014 PG-13) the movie is well done, with lovely actors, amazing sets, and lots of action and intrigue.  But I kept questioning the premise.

In the future, there was a terrible war and now the survivors have created a utopia in walled city (Chicago) by dividing the population up by their aptitudes and values.  So, if you are kindhearted and selfless, you live with the Abnegation faction and help people.  If you are brave, you are Dauntless, the wild and risk-taking protectors of the citizens.  If you are Erudite, you are smart and work as a scientist or teacher.  If you cannot tell a lie and value the truth, your are a Candor, and work as a lawyer.  Those who value peace above everything are the Amity, and live as smiling hippy-style tenders of the farms.

Now for my questions:


1.  People marry inside their faction and raise their children with their values until the children are 16, when they chose which faction to live in the rest of their lives.  But what kind of home life must a child have in the always-preparing-for-battle Dauntless faction?

2.  How can Amity stay smiling all the time when they do the grunt work for the benefit of everyone?

3.  Who are the electricians and plumbers?

4.  Do you learn to read and write in your faction, or travel to the Erudite area for school?

5.  How can Candor survive without telling those little white lies that keep society polite (I mean, do we really care when we say, “How are you?”).

6.  If all the selfless Erudite people live together, how can the other selfish factions keep from stepping on each other to get ahead?

7.  Where are the medical facilities for all the injuries that certainly must occur in the Dauntless faction?

If I had read the book, perhaps I wouldn’t have been concerned with such structural questions.  So, I’ll just review the movie after you watch the trailer:

Shailene Woodley is the teen, Tris, who finds she doesn’t fit in any faction, which makes her a danger to the system.  She is a decent actress, although her speaking voice is the same no matter what the situation or emotion.  Did you catch that in the trailer?

Kate Winslet is the leader who believes the the faction system. But how far will she go to maintain it? Winslet doesn’t show much range of emotion, or give much of a glimpse of the evil inside.  Perhaps that was intentional.

Theo James is Tris’s trainer once she chooses the Dauntless faction.  Is he a good guy, or bad guy?  I bet you can guess!  But Theo James does act subtly enough to barely show his conflicting emotions, and plays the character well.

If you watch without thinking too much, this is a fun movie!


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Need for Speed: Either You Need It, or You Don’t


I’ll start right off telling you that I need this movie.  At the end I’ll show you why.

Need For Speed (2014 PG-13) tells the story of street racing friends who work together to bring a criminal to justice.  Sort of.  It’s really about watching the cars and watching the relationship among good friends who have worked and played together for years.


from left Ramon Rodriguez, Scott Mescudi, Aaron Paul, Harrison Gilbertson, Rami Malek

Aaron Paul stars as Tobey, the owner of an auto repair shop that he runs with these guys.  They are great at souping up 1960’s  muscle cars to street race.  The opening race is a non-computer generated race with these sweet cars.  Just listen to those engines!

To race across country, the friends need back the sweet Shelby Mustang they rebuilt, and with it comes a girl, Julia (Imogen Poots).  You can guess already that at first Tobey resents Julia, then comes to admire her.  I like that she is not perfect and that he is not perfect, and that they grow fond of each other without too much mush.


Now to tell about why I need this movie….


I have the calendar (without skimpy skanky girls, of course).


I have the stamps.


I had the car. Had. Cue sad music.

Fun movie!  Especially for me.



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Three Mickey Rooney Movies

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Mickey Rooney could sing and dance and play tough guys and comedy roles.  Here are three of my favorite movies with Mickey Rooney:


Babes in Arms (1939 NR) is one of Mickey’s “Hey Kids, let’s put on a show!” movies, usually costarring Judy Garland.  In it the children of show business performers band together to raise enough money to keep their actor parents from being evicted and the kids sent to a state work school:

Watch Mickey and Judy, so talented and lovely, in this fun duet:


In National Velvet (1944 NR) Mickey Rooney plays a young drifter who Elizabeth Taylor convinces to help her train her horse for a big race.  This movie made Elizabeth Taylor a star, while Mickey had a smaller and more serious role than he had previously.  The preview’s old style shouldn’t keep you from watching this fun movie:


Night at the Museum (2006 PG) stars Ben Stiller as a new night museum guard who discovers the exhibits come to life at night.  Mickey Rooney plays one of the old guards in a comedic tough-guy role (“He looks like a weirdie”):

This is a fun movie in itself, and watching the three old museum guards (Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs) banter with each other and with Stiller makes it even richer:

Talented, and with a long and varied career!  Treat yourself to one of these Mickey Rooney movies today!





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