watching, reading, and writing stories

Worth Waiting For Cars 3

If you read my blog posts you know I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Cars 3. If you do decide to read this, be aware that I will share some of the story plot points. So if you don’t want to be spoiled on anything, you can wait till after you’ve seen the movie to read my review. But if you don’t mind a general overview, go ahead and read.

Before I get to the review, though, I want to share something else. You see this past weekend, when Cars 3 came out, my church had organized a youth retreat for our students. I was helping teach at the retreat and our focus was on God’s Kingdom and living for it instead of yourself. I found my desire to see Cars 3 as a perfect illustration at the retreat, so I thought I’d share it here as well.

Although I love movies and get excited to see ones I’ve been waiting for, living for them is not fulfilling. At the end of the day, a movie is just a movie. Two hours and it’s over, maybe you liked it, maybe you didn’t, but it’s not as important as other things in life. When I committed to teaching at this retreat, I was showing by my actions that I value the Kingdom of God more than getting what I want. Even though I would have loved to see Cars 3 on opening night, living for God and His kingdom is so much more important to me and more valuable in the long run. His Kingdom doesn’t end, like movies do, and He satisfies us with His presence, love, peace and truth in a way that nothing else can.

So anyway, I just wanted to share that before I give my review. I think putting things into perspective helped me enjoy this movie more. I wasn’t looking for a perfect movie to satisfy all of my desires, but instead got to just enjoy it for what it is. Plus I got to see it with two of my closest friends and laugh with them during the whole thing, which makes any movie experience ten times better.

If you couldn’t tell from the above comments, I loved this movie. It was just what the original story needed as it’s sequel. There were tons of funny parts. I especially liked seeing McQueen’s interactions with his fellow racers and then with the new character Cruz. One of my favorite scenes was when Cruz tells Lightning he has to name all of his tires and he responds with the most sarcastic and hilarious response: “Lefty, Righty, Backy and Backy Jr.” It’s fun to see them learning from each other and although I was hoping for Lightning to have a big comeback, seeing him become a mentor to Cruz was ultimately much more satisfying.

All of our favorite characters are back, even Chick Hicks, and their interactions match their personalities perfectly. This film stays true to the original Cars feel, and shows the value of community and relationships over just winning. And it also dives deeper into the background for Doc’s character and shows how much Lightning changed him as well.

All in all this is a very heartwarming story and it was well worth the wait. So good job with the sequel Pixar! I hope you do this with all future sequels.

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Wonder Woman

If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, be warned, there are spoilers in my review. So I’ve put off writing a review for Wonder Woman even though I saw it in theaters opening night. I think it’s because I really wanted to like this movie and most of the reviews and responses to the movie were very positive. But I just didn’t come out of the theater thinking ‘I loved that movie’ and I wasn’t really sure why. But now that I’ve had some time to think it over, I’ve come up with some reasons why I didn’t love this movie.

Now don’t get me wrong, this movie is a very high quality film and I’m glad it’s getting good reviews and people are enjoying it. I don’t want to start any arguments or make anyone upset. But since I have reviewed movies in the past, I wanted to at least give my opinion.

First off, one thing that makes me love a movie is the comedy. Not all movies need to have comedy, but even dramas I think are improved with moments of comic relief. Wonder Woman too, includes some comedic moments, but most of them are based in sexual humor which is awkward to me and not very funny. I don’t like that kind of comedy and so I found this movie very lacking in any funny moments that usually make me enjoy a superhero movie.

In addition, what makes me really enjoy a movie is a connection to the main character and a desire for them to succeed or accomplish their goal. I’m still not sure why, but I just didn’t connect to Wonder Woman as a character. I didn’t care what happened to her and even when her love interest died, I didn’t cry. Maybe it has something to do with her being a god and not having many things is common with me, or many of the other characters.

And speaking of the whole god thing, that was another reason I didn’t like the movie. As a Christian, any film that has it’s story line based in mythology always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I believe there is one true God and seeing anything with reference to other gods is just always harder for me to get into. But that’s just who Wonder Woman is, so I don’t blame the movie at all, they are sticking to the original comic for her back story, as they should. It’s just another reason that I personally had a hard time enjoying this movie. I prefer superheroes who get their powers by accident or technology instead of because they are a ‘god.’

And lastly, I had a hard time following the story in Wonder Woman. She seems to believe for most of the movie that she just has to defeat this one bad guy, Ares, and then everyone will stop fighting and there will be peace. It’s a naive understanding and I enjoyed seeing her discover that killing one bad guy won’t solve everything when she kills the German with her sword and the fighting doesn’t stop. But then the audience is shown that in fact it was just the wrong bad guy and even her sword isn’t the weapon we thought it was. So instead Wonder Woman is the weapon and some other guy is Ares and she battles him, wins and then the fighting stops.

So it felt like they were setting up an alternate ending where Wonder Woman doesn’t just defeat a bad guy and win, but then that ending sort of happened anyway. So I felt led on as an audience member. I don’t mind it usually when movies have surprises that you weren’t expecting, but it just felt like it was trying to do something new and then said never mind we’ll just do the regular ending that everybody expected at first.

In conclusion, as I’ve already said, I didn’t enjoy the movie. And that’s sad because I was really excited about it and was hoping I’d really enjoy it. I loved the scenery and setting in World War 1 and I liked Chris Pine’s acting and several of the action sequences were very well done. But in the end, it just wasn’t for me.

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Why I’m excited for Cars 3

As many of you know, I love kids movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good adult film, there are many that I do. But honestly, I love the kids movies. They’re funny, heartwarming, and I don’t have to worry about crude language or inappropriate scenes. Plus, I’ve found that many kids movies have compelling stories and characters that I just fall in love with.

One of my favorite movies from when I was growing up is Cars. I know there are some out there who didn’t like it, or thought it was not as original as other movies. But I loved it: the music, the animation, the plot. I especially loved seeing how the main character Lightning McQueen matured through the movie, made real friends, and started to care more for others than himself. And I was shocked, but in a good way, when he didn’t win the big Piston Cup at the end of the movie but chose to help an injured car finish the race instead. That scene really highlighted how much Lightning had changed.

Cars 2 was a bit of a disappointment to me. It revolved more around Mater than Lightning and the story just wasn’t as compelling or interesting. And what do you know, we still don’t get to see Lightning win a big race. It’s canceled due to espionage.

But now Cars 3 is about to come out and I’m so excited. From the previews this story clearly revolves around Lightning once again. Only now, he is the older car, like Doc was in the first film. And even though he’s racing against faster and younger cars, he is determined to win one last race. I’m hoping that finally, we’ll get to see Lightning win a race at the end of this movie and learn more good lessons along the way.

Pixar hasn’t been afraid to deal with tragedy in the past, such as Ellie dying in Up or Coral dying in Finding Nemo. So I’m excited to see how they will treat this crash that Lightning will experience.

So if you’re not excited yet, here’s a preview. And I hope we all get the Cars sequel we’ve been waiting 10 years for.

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Smurfs vs Baby Boss


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So I haven’t done a movie review in a little while and I happened to see two movies this past weekend, so I thought it was time to do one. The two family films or kid’s movies that I went to see with a friend were The Boss Baby and Smurfs: The Lost Village. I have to admit from the previews I was a lot more excited about Smurfs than Boss Baby. The whole idea of a baby acting like an adult kind of weirded me out and even though I like Alec Baldwin’s humor, I wasn’t sure it would work out in a kid’s movie. Smurf’s on the other hand, looked extremely funny from the previews and I thought an all-animated movie would be an improvement over the mix of live-action and animated figures that we have seen in past Smurf movies.

And so, into the theater I went. The first film I saw was The Boss Baby, and I was surprised at how good it was. There were multiple funny lines and scenes, and the characters had a depth with great strengths and weaknesses. I was especially excited to see how both of the main characters grew through the movie. The single child realizes how fun and good having a brother can be. And the boss baby learns what he’s been missing out on by not being part of a family and how empty career advancement really is. And both boys learn how love isn’t limited but how it can grow to include more and more people.

At the end of Boss Baby I was just so happy. It had enough surprises for me to not feel like I had known exactly what would happen before I even watched the movie, and it had a satisfying conclusion where both characters get what they thought they wanted and then decide to change and give up their old desires for new better ones.

After a snack break and some leg stretching me and my friend headed back to the theaters for the Smurf movie. As I watched the movie, I found myself not laughing as much as I had thought I would. I realized that most of the jokes that I had found funny in the preview were the same jokes in the movie. After seeing them in the previews, they just weren’t as funny and there were not many additional ones to the ones I’d already seen. There was also not a lot of surprises either. The majority of the plot had already been revealed in the preview: other Smurfs exist in the forbidden forest, and four of our more familiar Smurfs go find them, the new Smurfs are all girls, then they have to defeat the evil wizard. There were a couple of other things that weren’t shown in the preview, but it definitely felt like I already knew most of the plotline. So when we finally got to the climax and it seemed like one of the Smurfs was a goner, I seriously doubted that it would end that way, and of course that Smurf magically came back to life. So it was an emotional ending, but somewhat predictable.

In the end, I actually liked Boss Baby more than the Smurf movie. This might have had a bit to do with low expectations for Boss Baby and High Expectations for Smurfs. Or perhaps I was excited for a movie when I saw Boss Baby and a little tired of watching movies by the time I saw Smurfs. But I think the biggest reason was because Smurfs revealed too much of its plotline in its previews and that made the movie predictable. Whereas Boss Baby set up the intro of its movie nicely in its previews but left most of the plot a surprise for the audience, and it had more of a surprising ending.

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The Lego Batman Movie

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This past weekend I went to see the Lego Batman movie with a friend. I knew from the previews that it would be very similar to the original Lego Movie, in that it was highly comical and would reference other fandoms. However, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it, until the movie started. From beginning to end, this movie throws out funny tidbits and references that keep the audience, especially the adult audience, giggling. Even the opening credits are included in this wave of hilarity. Batman narrates the opening black screen, studio logos and quote, and then continues to bring us hilarious dialogue throughout the movie.

Yet even with these continuous comedic elements, the film still manages to bring in a fairly good story line. Batman especially, realizes flaws about himself and chooses to make a change, making him more of a hero than when he just saved the city from criminals.

I also loved seeing so many other characters from other franchises popping up in the story. Sauron from Lord of the Rings makes an appearance, as does Voldemort from Harry Potter, and the Dalek from Doctor Who. And I especially loved the references to the previous Batman movies and Batman’s unending competition with Superman.

So if you love Legos, or Batman, or just want to sit back and laugh for an hour, go see the Lego Batman Movie.

Here’s a preview, if you’re interested:

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Hidden Figures and Coming Together

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This movie was excellent and I’m so excited about sharing it with you. Hidden Figures follows the story of three African American women in the 1960s who worked at NASA with the Space Program. Watching it reminded me a bit of another one of my favorite movies: Remember the Titans. Whenever there is a movie that deals with the social and racial tension of the Civil Rights Movement, I always love seeing how people change and come together as they realize that their differences aren’t so important and that when they work together, amazing things can happen.

In Remember the Titans it was a football team learning to come together and integrate black and white players and coaches into one unstoppable team. And in Hidden Figures it’s about black and white men and women coming together to do the impossible: send a man into space and bring him home safely. There are fears, insecurities, prejudices and injustices that must be overcome, dealt with and moved past in order for this to happen. But in the end they do and it’s so exciting to see.

This film does a great job of showing the hard reality of the 1960s, especially for blacks, while also giving us hope of change and a better future. And just as these women had to deal with unfair treatment and pay, but chose to keep going and find new ways to succeed and prove their worth, we too live in a time when it’s easy to mistrust others, or make assumptions or treat others differently. It may not even be because of skin color, it could be social status, or political leaning, or religious differences. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

When we stop focusing on what’s different, and instead see that the person next to us is just that, a person; one who loves, hurts, feels, cares just as we do and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, that’s when things change, when unity is possible and progress is made.

The Titans went on to win a championship, the NASA workers went on to put a man on the moon. And we can continue the work and do more than anyone thought possible.

However, I want to add one thread of caution. It’s easy to think we can accomplish all these great things if we just try hard enough. But ultimately, each of us is still selfish, a sinner, and a person that makes mistakes. We won’t get this perfect and without God’s help we won’t make any progress at all. So as this year continues, I pray that our nation will learn to love, not hate, to value others and not fear them, and to care for others and not just ourselves. In essence, I pray that we follow Jesus’s example and do the hard work: dying to self and living for others. And with His help, we will.

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Sing and Positivity

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Well, I finally got to see Sing the other day. The previews for this movie had me hooked from the beginning. I love animated children’s movies and I love songs and this movie had all of that, plus a lot of great actors doing the voices for all of the characters. Here’s a preview in case you’re interested:

So I went to the theater on Tuesday with my great friend and my mom. And I couldn’t stop smiling. Even in the ups and downs of the story line, there is an underlying positivity throughout this movie that is infectious. I loved hearing all of the songs redone and seeing the plethora of characters grow and improve, becoming more confident and putting themselves out there. It was a great reminder that every person is unique and beautiful.

Sometimes it’s hard to be ourselves, to shine, to do, or become what we feel we’re called to do. But as the characters in this movie are drawn together into relationships and a community, they help each other grow and realize their potential.

Meanwhile I’ve been reading about how important social interactions are. As humans, we need people, we need community, we need approval and someone to encourage us or point out what we do well, and what we can improve.
And I just read an interesting article about happiness and how important human contact, specifically touch is to it. The article encouraged everyone to give someone a hug, and not just an awkward side hug for a second, but a full on long hug.

So I’m challenging you to join me in making 2017 a positive new year. Go give your friend a hug and let’s help each other make this year a great one.

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Movie Reviews

Alright, I have been to the theater so many times in the last couple of weeks that I figured I should just cram all of my reviews into one post. So here we go, let’s review Arrival, Moana, Dr. Strange and Rogue One. We’ll start with the one I was most excited about: Moana.

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I love kid’s movies and whenever a new Disney movie comes out, I am eager to see it. This movie may not have become as huge a phenomenon as Frozen, but it still has a good story, and very good music. I enjoyed the visuals and the growth of the characters in this film. From the previews, I was not expecting Maui to be the antihero. But I actually liked it and I’m glad he gets a redeeming story-arch. Walking away from this movie, I wasn’t all that impressed, but since Disney has released some of the music onto YouTube, I’ve been getting all of it’s songs stuck in my head. And it’s not just the main theme song that gets repeated, all of the music is catchy and enjoyable. I get a new one stuck in my head each day. This probably comes from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s style, who also wrote music for the successful Hamilton show on Broadway. So, even though this wasn’t my favorite Disney movie, the music was well worth the cost of the movie ticket and I’d even consider going to see it again.

Here’s a clip of one of the songs in case you’re interested:

Next let’s go to Rogue One.

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This was a very highly anticipated addition to the Star Wars franchise and my sister wanted to see it so bad that we actually got our tickets early and saw it on opening day. Even though we were both excited to see it, there wasn’t an immediate “I love this movie!” feeling after leaving the theater. A lot of emotional things happened in this movie and honestly, some of it was a bit hard for me to follow. I enjoyed the movie and I think it blends in nicely to the series. I especially enjoyed the references to other characters in the Star Wars universe and the epic appearance of Darth Vader. But it was hard to get attached to the new characters. And I’m almost glad I didn’t get attached what with the ending we’re given. (Spoiler Alert) They all die. But even with that as the ending, it was still a good movie and I think most people will enjoy it.

Next we’ll dive into the Marvel Universe’s latest creation: Dr. Strange.

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I had no basis for this character and what his backstory should be as I came into the theater. All I knew was Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the lead. I do enjoy his acting, so I was looking forward to the movie. And it was pretty good for a superhero movie, though I think it wasn’t what I was hoping for from Marvel. Honestly he’s probably just not the type of superhero I enjoy watching. Every superhero should have a flaw but since his is arrogance, it’s just not as enjoyable for me to watch. Plus his whole powers thing is kind of weird and too magicy for my taste. I did enjoy the few comedic elements in the film, as Marvel always gives us. But I think I enjoyed Ant Man’s comedy style more and from the new Spider-man movie trailer that movie will probably be more my style.

And lastly, we’ll look at Arrival.

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This movie was not even on my radar but some of my family wanted to see it, so we headed to the theater and sat down to watch another alien movie. I am not a huge fan of alien movies, and I usually avoid them. But this one was more interesting. It focused more on the problem of communication and not on a kill the aliens and save the world set up that I’m used to seeing. Also, the film did a great job of staying realistic. I really could imagine my college shutting down because of the arrival, and everyone calling each other and freaking out while people in the army and government try to figure out what to do. The only downside I could see was it had some slow parts. And I wasn’t quite satisfied with the ending. There is a romantic relationship in the plot, but through the movie we’re shown that it won’t work out, and me and my girlfriends agreed the movie would have been much better if at the very end, we saw the two main characters getting back together.

So anyway, there’s my movie reviews so far. If you’re interested in any of these movies, go ahead and see them, I think they’re each worth it. But if you’re going to the theater for a fun family movie that everyone can enjoy together, I’d say go with Moana.

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What makes a hero?

I’ve discovered that renting movies at the Library can be quite fun. Instead of paying a lot of money to see a movie once online, or keep for 24 hours from Redbox, I can borrow multiple movies for free and keep them for 3 whole weeks! This has resulted in me watching several movies that I’ve never seen but have always wanted to. Most recently it meant I watched The Amazing Spider-man 2.

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Now I grew up watching the Toby McGuire Spider-man movies and as a kid, and I loved them. When I got older, they didn’t seem as good as I’d remembered, but there’s still a lot of nostalgia going on when I see one. More recently the Amazing Spider-man with Andrew Garfield has released films and now there will be a third Spider-man because the character is owned by Disney. We even got a sneak peek at him in the Captain America Civil War movie.

All that to say, I don’t know which actor has or will do the best job at portraying Spider-man. But I really appreciated how Andrew Garfield pulled it off in this sequel. It wasn’t so much the flying acrobatics, or witty humor that got to me, though that was great too (at least compared with the original series). No, what really stood out to me was how this Spider-man did heroic things that normal everyday people can do too. Seeing him try to encourage someone and tell them they’re worth something and have value was so awesome. It reminded me of all of those videos on Youtube where someone does random nice things for someone else and you get to see a glimpse of people’s gratitude and joy. Caring for someone else is what being a hero is all about. And the great thing is anyone can do it.

Here’s an example of just one of those videos:

My favorite scene in the movie was when a kid was getting picked on by some bullies and then Spider-man swoops in to scare them off. But he doesn’t just leave. He stops to help the kid fix his school project and tells him how great it is and he even offers to walk the kid home. Anyone could do that, but it takes a hero to actually do it.

It reminds me of the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan.

Someone gets beat up and definitely could use some help but the people who see him are too focused on themselves to care. Maybe they didn’t want to get mugged too, or they had an important appointment to keep, or they thought there wasn’t anything they could do, so they just kept walking.

But the Samaritan stopped. He noticed and he did something about this guy’s problem. He bandaged his wounds, took him to a hotel (or inn) and paid for him to stay there.

I know it’s easy to go through life focusing on all the problems, especially your own. I’ve definitely done that, a lot. But if we stop to take notice of what’s going on, if we really follow Jesus’s example and value others above ourselves, we’ll see plenty of opportunities to love and care for others, and be the hero God wants us to be.

So I hope this little post encouraged you today.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

So, I finally made it back to a movie theater and thought I’d do a blog post about the newest film in the Harry Potter Franchise: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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Now I’m a bit new to this fandom, I didn’t grow up reading the books or watching the movies, though many in my generation did. I only read and watched the original series this past year. So it was kind of fun to go to my first Harry Potter movie at the movie theater. I was joined by several friends and we settled into our comfy reclining chairs to watch the story of the man who wrote Harry’s textbook.

I was also really excited to watch this movie because Eddie Redmayne plays the main character Newt Scamander. He also played Marius in Les Miserables and I loved that movie. So I was excited for how he’d pull off this role. He did a great job with his awkward smiles and his hilarious interactions with the beasts he carries around in his suitcase. He turns Newt into a lovable character that you can’t help but root for.

But my favorite part of this movie was our Muggle or No Mag character Jacob Kowalski. He brought so much humor into this movie with his fascination for all of the magical things he had never seen or experienced before. Maybe I identified with him the most because this whole world is a bit new to me too. But mostly it was just his good sense of humor and how he accepts that this world is real and wants to help protect it.

In any case, this film had a intriguing story, fun new characters, beautiful animation and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. So if you have time during this Thanksgiving Break, go see it.