Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pitch Perfect (2012): Mormon Movie Review

  We got to see an advanced screening of Pitch Perfect tonight.  It is midnight, but I wanted to make sure we got this out to you.  If you see any typos, just let us know, but I will probably proof read tomorrow.  You might want to see if there are any screenings in your area as they are really trying to promote this movie.  If there aren't, Fandango has a buy 3 get 1 free deal for advanced ticket sales!

   Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group. Injecting some much needed energy into their repertoire, The Bellas take on their male rivals in a campus competition.

   I am of the firm opinion that Glee is destroying America's young vocal talents.  But there is something about collegiate a Capella music gives me hope.  It is an original style that takes a vocal skill and a keen ear.  It can't just be produced in a studio with a beat machine and auto tune.  With TV shows like "The Sing Off" and groups like BYU's Vocal Point gaining national attention it was only a matter of time before it became a feature film.  Pitch Perfect even takes a few jabs at Glee which made me happy.

   The music in Pitch Perfect is such a pleasure.   Covering popular tracks like Kelly Clarkson's "Since You Been Gone" (I refuse to spell i with a "U") and Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." keeps the music relevant.  Pitch Perfect is also timeless as it takes some hits from the 80's like Ace of Base's "The Sign" and breathes new life into them.  Music is a magical thing and several times during the movie I left goosebumps as chords would build or keys change.  The singing is done very well and the ladies and gentlemen of the film have proved they can do more than dance.  You will want to pick up the soundtrack!
   When I was walking out of the theatre I heard a comment from the girls behind me; "Pitch Perfect is the PG-13 Bridesmaids."  I have to say they had a lot in common.  The ensemble cast is all very talented.  There wasn't a weak link in the group.  Anna Kendrick's "Beca" is very fluid and likable.  The balance of being aloof and guarded is struck in a way where we see she is a bit of a loner, but she is likable to the audience so her character progression seems natural.  Her friendship with rival group member Jesse, played by Skylar Astin, is real and heartwarming.  

      Rebel Wilson really steals the show though.  You might remember her from the trailer as "Fat Amy."  Although Amy is a bit crude, she is also brutally honest.  as a credit to Wilson, most of her lines were just improvised and she kept the cast and crew in stitches and she would go on and on until they told her they had enough.  Hopefully the DVD has some outtakes.  (They saved one of the best ones for during the credits though.)

   Producer Elizabeth Banks also has a surprise cameo as one of the announces of the vocal competitions.  She is a delight on screen.  It reminds me of her performance in The Hunger Games.    

   The trailers for Pitch Perfect really focus on the comedy of the movie, but the solid vocal performances is what will keep your eyes glued to the screen and ears wide open!
 Pitch Perfect is a great teen film.  There is some implied sexual content and a handful or excrement related curses.  Some of the rules of "The Bellas" is that they do not have sexual relations with the guys of their rival a Capella group.  The leader of The Bellas says the reason is to keep their dignity and to be taken seriously. There is also a scene of under 21 drinking.  Some of the dance moves and outfits are a little provocative, but I think what really makes the girls appear attractive is their ability to make beautiful music and the confidence they have in themselves as they perform stage.    

Monday, September 17, 2012

Revolution (2012): Mormon TV Review

   If The Walking Dead (our review) didn't give you enough motivation to get your one year supply of food storage, Revolution certainly will!  NBC has been posting some of the pilots to their new shows online.  It is how we were able to get our review of The New Normal online before it aired.  It is an interesting tactic, but shows the confidence NBC has in their Fall Lineup.  They know fans we infiltrate the blogosphere with their thoughts on the new shows and feel it will be in their favor.  Right now it is available for free on Hulu.

   Revolution hits the ground running.  We see two kids sitting on the couch glued to TV's and iPads.  30 seconds later Dad, Tim Guinee, busts into the house with all the canned goods he can carry with a warning, "It's all gonna turn off.  It's gonna turn off and it will never ever turn back on."  Two minutes into the show and suddenly all the power in the whole world goes out.

   Then we pick up 15 years in the future.  We see a small community where everything in being done manually, farming, hand sewn clothes, sheep pens, bow hunting. For a pilot the sets are done very well.  It is amazing to see some of the earth reclaiming the land.  

   The 2 minute into really leaves a lot of questions, who caused the black out, can it be fixed, how did the Dad know it was happening.  Many of these answers will be revealed via flashback.  One of my favorite flashbacks takes us back to the night when everything turned off.  Ben Matheson (Dad) is clearing out the freezer and gives his daughter a whole half gallon of ice cream since it will soon melt anyways.  If a touching moment he looks his little girl in the eyes and says, "Slow down.  I want you to really remember what it tastes like."  It is like he is saying, the world is about to become a very harsh place and he wants her to be able to retain her innocence as long as possible.

   The federal government has fallen, and roving militias have formed their own governments run through tyranny and fear.  It feels a lot like Kevin Costner's "The Postman."  If you loved it like I did, you will really enjoy Revolution.  If you didn't you may want to give it a pass.  

   The world has gotten ruthless and we see some of the brutality. The violence is not extremely graphic, but we do see blood.  The language is clean with only a few PG curses.  There is a scene of attempted sexual assault, but it is not carried out.  

   Seeing the condition of the world, it makes me wonder what our last days will be like.  I think a similar outcome is possible.  What would you do if you couldn't look up recipes on Pintrest, drive to the store to get milk, Google a fact you didn't know the answer to, or get a message to your loved ones via text, Facebook, Twitter, or email?

Brandon Flowers Defends His Mormon Faith

   When the "I'm a Mormon" campaign featured Brandon Flowers, of The Killers, I was a little hesitant to be fully behind it.  Last I heard he wasn't very involved with the Church, and I was concerned it was just a publicity stunt.  Like if there was a commercial featuring Ryan Gosling or Katherine Heigl.  The message was very positive, yet was more focused on family rather than the Church.  

   I had asked a friend about the video. (Who is another popular recording artist and is Mormon, I didn't ask for permission to share this so I won't include his name.) But he said they had played shows in the same area together and that Brandon was a real stand up guy, and they spent time talking together about their faith.  It really made be respect Brandon.

   Then yesterday another friend shared this video with me of Brandon Flowers as a guest on Skavlan, a Swedish talk show.  He was brought on to promote The Killers' new album "Battle Born," but spent little time talking about it. First I just thought it was odd they were hosting the show in both English and Swedish.  Then as I listened to the questions they were asking the tone of the conversation changed to his faith.  At first they were pretty inquisitive (2:49), but then the show really takes a turn at 5:07 to more accusatory.  When one of the panelist asks him if he truly believes the story of the gold plates and Joseph Smith.  In his response he talks about the need to gain your own testimony and affirms that he truly believes.

I'd slap you, but I can't... I'm Mormon

   At 7:20 they bring out Richard Dawkins, who is a famous atheist.  He speaks for a few minutes about science, then he proceeds to berate The Book of Mormon and calls Joseph Smith a charlatan right to Brandon's face on television.  I think any of us would want to just shirk away at this point.  But Brandon defends his faith and says outright, "When I hear you call this call this man a charlatan, I take offense to that."  He tells Mr. Dawkins that he needs to do his research.  

   At that point (12:20) Brandon is excused to join the Killers backstage to prep for the performance of "Runaways" shown at 19:00.

   Seeing the way Brandon spoke about the Church and defended his faith with someone fully versed in debate helped me to gain a new found respect for him.  Shame on Skavlan and Richard Dawnkins for railroading Brandon in an interview that he expected would be about The Killers, and not with a panel of atheists ready to challenge his faith.  I also wanted to apologize to Brandon (because I am sure he is a huge fan of the blog) for any thoughts I might have had towards his conviction towards the gospel.  I know he has a testimony and I hope he can return to be with his wife and kids soon.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Saints and Soldiers- Airborne Creed (2012): Mormon Movie Review

   We were recently asked to do a review of Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed by a Mormon themed Podcast called The Cultural Hall.  They allowed us to share it on our site as well, but I encourage you to check out their site.  While you are there you can listen to the Interview they did with the Director and Producer of the film and gain some additional insights into the movie. 

 On August 15, 1944 the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team (PRCT) jumped over the south of France. Their mission was to support and protect the Allied Troops marching to Berlin. Landing in enemy territory, they fell under immediate attack. In their effort to complete the mission and rendez-vous with their unit, three isolated paratroopers come across a group of French resistants in desperate need. They decide to help liberate some of the captive Partisans. Doing so they risk their lives in an effort to live the Airborne Creed.

   I got together with my Dad to watch Airborne Creed this week.  He is a big World War II buff and thought he would enjoy it.  I had seen the original and was very impressed with the high quality on such a short budget.  This new and original story line continues that tradition.

   If you are a fan of "Mormon Cinema" you are going to see some familiar faces.  A face that will seem eerily familiar is that of Corbin Allred.  He played the lead, "Deacon" Greer, in the previous Saints and Soldiers film.  The ironic thing is, he is playing a completely different character.  I was hesitant to this idea at first, but it works.  While "Deacon" is a solemn and disciplined (assumed) Mormon.  His role of Corporal Rossi is much more rough around the edges with a reputation for fighting and a haircut that would violate the BYU honor code.  It is a credit to his abilities as an actor.  

   One of the things I noticed right off the bat when watching this movie is the excellent sound editing.  I know it sounds funny, but good sound is essential for story immersion.  In one of the fight scenes, which ends up a bare fisted brawl, the sound and tight editing really make the film come alive.  It could have been torn from The Borne Identity, which won academy awards for film editing, sound editing, and sound mixing.  Airborne Creed makes excellent use of it's budget with authentic costumes, weaponry, and vehicles.  

   The French sometimes get a reputation for being cowards for surrendering during World War II.  After seeing the courage and resourcefulness of the French Resistance I might change my tune.  Although France did fall, it was only after the English fled to their homeland and the French were about to be pushed into the sea.  Afterward the Resistance led a guerrilla war against the Germans, causing acts of sabotage and providing essential intelligence allowing the Allied forced to advance into Germany after the Normandy landing.  It is great to see part of this story told. 

   The rest of the cast is rounded out by David Nibley, The Best Two Years and 17 Miracles, and Jasen Wade, also of 17 Miracles.  I must add that those are also movies essential to any Mormon Movie Collection.  Wade's facial expressions of dread when a German K-9 scouting party is trying to sniff him out, put you on the edge of your seat.  Newcomer, Virginie Anderson, seems to command every scene she is in.  Perhaps because she is the only female in a cast of dirty, grimy men, but most likely because she is a natural.  Being French, she has a believably that adds to the immersion of the story.  An improvement from Kirby Heyborne's Englishman from the last film. (I loved you in The Best Two Years Kirby!) 

   The pacing moves very fluidly until about the end.  The final battle sequence is not very well established as a culminating event.  The aftermath of that battle has some of the most heartfelt dialogue though.  "I hate this uniform and I'm supposed to hate you."  The line, spoken through tears to an enemy soldier, really outlines the major theme of the Saints and Soldiers Films.  Although they were all Soldiers, there were also some Saints (not necessarily Latter-day) on both sides of the conflict.

As a movie produced by LDS film makers you would be right to expect clean language. The most sexual content  we see is a "kiss like only French women know how to give."  But you can also expect some violence being a war movie.  We are exposed to some of the brutality of the Germans, and many scenes of battle.  But the one question we were left with that really troubled my dad and I was, "What happened to that dog?"


Monday, September 10, 2012

The New Normal (2012): Mormon TV Review

   One of the more talked about shows being added to NBC's lineup this fall is The New Normal.  I was able to preview the pilot episode (watch it free) and I thought it would be fun to post a review about it.  It is a bit of a heated topic, so I will save my impressions on the controversy to the Content section and use this section to merely talk about the quality of the show.

   The New Normal stars Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon, and Justin Bartha, National Treasure, as a gay couple who desire to have a baby through a surrogate parent.  At the opening of the episode Rannells is making a heartfelt video message for his child he might have.  It is very tender.  Having know several friends unable to have a baby by birth, it pulled at my heart strings a bit.  But it is about the extent of any real emotion felt during the pilot episode.  Rannells still acts well and is very likable.  Almost a toned down Jack from Will and Grace.

   Bartha, however, is not as watchable.  He is very mild and dry in his role of the more masculine of the pair.  That played very well for him in National Treasure as a quippy sidekick.  He loses the boyish excitement here though, and seems to float around the screen instead as the sun stroke induced groom found after 2 days in the Las Vegas heat he played in The Hangover.   

Did you know the human head weighs 8lbs?
   The rest of the cast also seems to not be a very strong support.  The surrogate they choose, Georgia King, is easy to enjoy on screen.  She plays Goldie, a single mom who is trying to get a fresh start.  Bebe Wood, who plays her daughter, seems to suck that joy out of their scenes though.  I always feel bad being critical of kids, but my problem is with the way the writers created her character.  She is the stereotypical, know it all, sassy pants that erupted onto the forefront of entertainment after that kid from Jerry Maguire rose to popularity after it came out in 1994.  It has been done to death, and needs to go the way of the Buffalo, "What's the deal with the new Tide?", Yakov Smirnoff, and "I just flew in and Boy, are my arms tired."  

   One character that has room for character progression is Goldie's grandmother portrayed by Ellen Barkin, Ocean's Thirteen.  She is portrayed as a judgmental bigot who thinks she is above others.  She speaks her thoughts without a filter, but I can see her growing closer to acceptance as the show progresses.  

      The mood of the show is very hard to gauge, it isn't funny enough to be a comedy and it isn't moving enough to be a drama.  Instead is just hovers in emotional limbo.  When Goldie's grandmother, Jane, gives the big reveal at the end of the episode as to why she has such hateful feelings toward gays, it just falls flat.  I would recommend the show runners start wrapping up plot lines, because I really don't see this lasting more than a season.  If it wasn't for the talents for Rannells, it wouldn't make it past the mid season break


Two weeks ago KSL, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake, decided to not air The New Normal when it premiers tonight.  Jeff Simpson, CEO of KSL's parent company Bonneville International stated, "For our brand, this program simply feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time.”  

Although I didn't find the show to be Pay Cable grade obscene, there was a scene of simulated sex, and the two main characters share light affectionate kisses. Language is appropriate for it's 9:30pm time slot, but more shocking was the racial and prejudicial slurs by the grandmother.
   I think the main things that got The New Normal removed from KSL's line-up was the message it sends that a homosexual couple is a perfectly normal situation to raise a child in.  But there is another message sent that actually is more offensive to viewers like me. 

   The characters are very polarized on their opinion of Goldie's choice to be a surrogate parent to a gay couple.  They are in either overwhelming support, or vehemently against it, like in the case of Barkin's character.  This message hurts the story telling.  The show really needs a middle ground to help those in the middle identify with a character.  There seems to be a message that if you don't agree with gay behavior, you must hate gay people.  I have gay people in my life and I love them just like my other friends.  I don't agree with their choices, just like I don't agree with the choice some of my friends have made to drink, vote for Barrack Obama, or wear a blue shirt to Church!  But to say I must hate them is offensive to me.  

   Although I don't necessarily agree with the choice KSL has made to ban the show based on the message it sends.  Also do not agree the message the show sends either.  If they would have said, we know our demographic and we feel a different show in that time slot would create more ad revenue it would make a lot more sense.  But I agree with what the Lord has said about families in the Family Proclamation.  "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."  

   We live in a world where not every child gets that opportunity though. Some are born into families of drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, teen moms, absent fathers, and some babies are killed before they even have a chance at life. Do I think a child can find happiness and love with a family of same sex parents? You bet I do! But do I think it is the "New Normal?" I hope not.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures – Blu-ray Release & Giveaway

The team over at My Film Addiction are having a great giveaway for the Indiana Jones Movie Collection. It is a must for any DVD Collection.

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures

Blu-ray Giveaway
The beloved Indiana Jones franchise is set for the royal treatment this September!
First, Raiders of the Lost Ark will make a triumphant return to cinemas, with a limited run exclusive to IMAX screens, September 7-13. You do not want to miss this release, as the film has undergone a complete restoration that is sure to please. You can get additional details, including local showtimes, on the IMAX website.
But don’t head out to the cinema without your Indiana Jones Whip App in tow. App City, the developers of Pocket Whip, have added Indy’s iconic whip, including theme music from Lost Ark, to its arsenal. The app is available free on iOS and Android operating systems.
These events lead up to the highly anticipated Blu-ray debut of the Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Tuesday, September 18th. All four films from the epic and award-winning franchise are available together in pristine 1080p High Definition. In addition, the box set includes over seven hours of fascinating featurettes, interviews, and documentaries – some with rarely seen footage not available in previous releases. For all those purists, Spielberg has confirmed that these are the original theatrical versions of all four films!
This is a set that will be cherished by any fan of the adventure franchise! Don’t wait, pre-order your copy of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures today, for only $68.99! As an added bonus, this box set includes DVD and Digital Copy versions of the films as well. Ladies, trust me, you cannot go wrong gifting this set, this holiday season.
Like us on facebook. We’ll keep you updated on new releases and giveaways.

Paramount has graciously bestowed My Film Addiction with a copy of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy! …and we want you to have it! Just fill out the form below and share with all your friends and family.

So head over to MyFilmAddiction.com to enter to win this awesome package! 
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