Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is the pastor at a small church in the tiny town of Imperial Nebraska. His family like so many others have fallen on some hard times with the economy down and jobs scarce. Times get really hard for the Burpo family when their son Colton (Connor Corum) gets extremely sick and nearly dies on the operating table. He survives and recounts the details of his amazing journey to heaven, how he met Jesus and other people that were gone long before his birth. His childlike innocence and matter-of-fact recounting tests his father’s faith and the faith of everyone in the church. Starring Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Lane Styles, Margo Martindale, Jacob Vargas, Thanya Romero, Danso Gordon, Rob Moran, Nancy Sorel, Darcy Fehr, Vivian Winther, Pete Hudson, Ursula Clark.
Heaven Is for Real is based on the number one New York Times best-selling book of the same name that recounts the true events of the Burpo family. Heaven Is for Real is mostly what you would expect – comfort food for the faithful but yet thought-provoking and sometimes moving for the rest of the world too.
The entire film hinges on the performances of Kinnear and Corum. So it is truly a miracle that they have a great rapport to carry the film through to the end. Corum plays the role with the perfect child innocence. Since he is a child this probably wasn’t extremely difficult for him but I was impressed none-the-less. I think he was cast perfectly and his performances drew from me all the anticipated emotions of sympathy, love and belief that the director was hoping for.
If you put aside the movie’s agenda (drawn from the book of course) you are left with a well crafted sentimental family drama. Thought provoking and emotional the film isn’t perfect but it does that job for the most part. Where things get a little questionable is when they start showing the images of heaven. I really wish they would have left all that to our imagination because it cheapens the film a bit for them to actually show us because the production value isn’t there. Worse still the poorly done heaven scenes jolt you out of the happy emotional place you were before thanks to the performances I already mentioned.
Now I have to rant for a second because while I know that 95% of films aren’t filmed where they actually take place this is one where they easily could have done so. Imperial, which I am intimately familiar with because my mother grew up there and my grandparents still live there, is a small town. Filming in that area and even in the town wouldn’t have been an issue. I mean heck at least get some shots of the main street. Sadly there is no actual footage from Imperial. Personally that just rubbed me the wrong way. It won’t bother anyone else….well except maybe my family and some of the residents of Imperial but still it didn’t make things any better for me when things got a little bumpy story wise in the movie. Again this is just my personal experience but since its my blog I can share!
Ultimately Heaven Is for Real is basically a fancy sermon but instead of being told from a pulpit it is told on a big screen with flashy production value. Those who are religiously inclined will either love or hate this movie because while it might not seem it the topic is a bit controversial. The rest who are looking for a movie based on entertainment value might want to look else where and save this one for a Netflix viewing at a later date.
6/10 Stars – Not just another religious film but still not one that will stick around for long I fear
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Oculus tells the story of Kaylie (Karen Gillian) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) Russell and how their family was torn apart by a supernatural mirror that hung on the wall in their father’s office. 11 years after the tragedy that sees their parents killed, Kaylie decides to perform an experiment on the mirror to see if her suspicions were correct all along. Tim is reluctant to acknowledge the past had anything to do with the mirror due to a long hospitalization for psychiatric evaluation, but it’s not long before he is reliving the past along side Kaylie as they try to destroy the mirror once and for all.
Where to begin… where to begin… I have a lot to say about Oculus, so stay with me as I try to explain my many thoughts and frustrations about this movie. I like to think that I’m a fan of the “horror” genre and I’m always on the lookout for a good intellectual scary movie. Some great movies that come to mind are Cabin in the Woods, Saw, Identity and Drag Me to Hell. Another such horror film that I saw within the last 2 years that I loved is called Sinister. The reason I mention Sinister is because you will see me compare Oculus heavily to it as they have some parallels. I’m not saying they are the same, but they are close enough that Sinister can help me make some valid points.
First thing I will say is that Oculus isn’t really a horror film as much as a psychological thriller. This day and age, with movies like Seven and Saw, the lines are blur between the 2 genres, but I would say that this movie isn’t really “scary” but more disturbing. So true horror fans might be disappointed, like myself, who is getting really tired of the “age of paranormal.” That’s right, I’m getting sick of these “bump in the night” movies that try to scare you with loud noises and people sneaking up on others. Are we suppose to assume that in horror films everyone is deaf and has no peripheral vision? I want to see unpredictable, truly creepy shit that shocks the audience to no end (i.e. ending to Saw, ending to Drag Me to Hell, beginning to Sinister). Lets dive into the movie, shall we?
The very beginning of Oculus tries to set a tone for what could be a scary movie, but unlike Sinister that just chills you to the bone, Oculus just kinda waves at you and says, “Hey, this is a scary movie.” After the opening 1-2 minutes that shows promise, we are introduced to 2 no-name actors who, in my opinion, can’t act and offered no charm for the audience to engage them. What’s even worse, is for the first 20 minutes, I felt like the 3rd person in a 2-person inside joke. The characters spoke in code and used the pronoun “it” way too much to keep the audience in the dark. Why??? Why keep your audience in the dark during a really boring part of the movie so we can care even less about your main characters? At least in Sinister Ethan Hawke was the lead so we had a familiar face to enjoy. At about the 20-30 minute mark, Kaylie literally goes on a rant and blurts out the whole story, premise, history and outcome of EVERYTHING! I mean it went from no info to basically telling us what will play out in the movie. What do you mean everything, you ask? Well, the way the story works in Oculus is that we see BOTH stories (present day and 11 years ago during the tragedy) unfold at the same time and when I say at the same time, I mean at the same time. You see, when Kaylie and Tim take the mirror back to their old childhood home to perform the experiment, the mirror does just as it did 11 year prior - screws with their minds! So the characters never know what is real and what is fake… AND NEITHER DO WE! We are just as confused as the people in the movie. I guess I can give the filmmakers props in this effect because we as audience members can relate with the characters because no one has a clue just what is going on or when (that’s right when!) it is going on! By the time we are at the end of the film, we aren’t that surprised at the outcome of the tragedy 11 years ago because we were TOLD all about it in beginning of the movie! What isn’t expected, however, is what happens to Kaylie and Tim in the present day. For those of you who have seen Sinister, the ending is pretty wicked but fits the story and isn’t a total shocker. Welllllllll, when you get to the end of Oculus, your jaw will drop, you will throw your arms up and say to yourself, ”this was a huge waste,” because it really is. I felt like no matter how crazy the movie was, the ending could have saved it, but it did the exact opposite. It made me realize how much time I wasted trying to engage this story. Ugh! Avoid Avoid Avoid! If you take anything away from this review, it’s that you should see the movies I listed above and leave Oculus alone. Sinister is similar with a much better story, actors, and scares! Go see that! Co-starring Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackoff, James Lance, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan.
4/10 Stars – Totally confusing with one of the worse endings in a horror film I’ve even seen! Oh, and it’s not even scary!
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Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a quiet, yet driven, local shop owner who just wants to keep up with payments to keep his business running. When he is framed from the tragic death of his good friend during a street race, Tobey is locked away for 2 years. Hell bent on seeking revenge on the man who put him behind bars, Tobey decides to go on a cross-country road trip in order to enter the race that will settle the score; the Deleon.
For starters, I am not a huge fan of car racing movies (even though I do like the Fast and Furious franchise and Rush last year was good) and I have never played any of the video games this movie is based on. Having said that, the first thing I noticed right out of the gate was the horrible acting. Many of the scenes portrayed people who were not natural and would never behave in such ways in real life. It was just awkward and took away from any realism as I chuckled in my seat. Second thing I noticed was the lack of any true star (and Michael Keaton 20 years after his prime doesn’t count). Its been 2+ years since starting this blog, and I’ve been watching movies for years before that, and one of the biggest red flags to a movie is NO STARS! What it tells me is that no Hollywood actor would put their name to this movie for money… not even actors famous for supporting roles.
As the movie goes along, the racing scenes do make up for the weak and predictable story. There are some pretty neat stunts and the cars are nice to look at. However, this is basically all the movie has to offer. Tobey’s crew adds some likability and Imogen Poots is good-looking, but they aren’t enough to excuse this movie of a run time of over 2 hours. At the end of the day, if you want a car movie, go watch Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (or even many classics) but don’t waste your time here. Not missing a thing! Co-starring Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Dominic Cooper, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Keaton, Dakota Johnson, Rami Malek, and Harrison Gilbertson.
5/10 Stars – Sure the cars and the races are fun, but the length, story and acting make me want to turn it off!
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Aside from the Super Bowl, Draft Day is one of the biggest days of the NFL season. This draft day, Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has the opportunity to make a splash when he trades for the number one pick. The owner and fans are thrilled but Sonny isn’t so sure he wants the player that is suppose to go at number one. He spends a grueling few hours debating on what he wants to do in order to build a team that he wants and one that can be the future of the franchise. Starring Jennifer Garner, Patrick St. Esprit, Chi McBride, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Arian Foster, Frank Langella, Denis leary, Timothy Simons, David Ramsey, Griffin Newman, Josh Pence, Sean Combs, Chris Berman, Mel Kiper, Jon Gruden, Deion Sanders, Mike Mayock, Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Goldhammer, Ellen Burstyn, Alex Mack, Tom Welling.
Draft Day won’t be a universal success because of its niche appeal but its slow burn plot and jargon packed dialogue is sure to please the millions of football loving fans who are bound to see this film. Like its predecessor Moneyball which covered baseball, Draft Day is one of the rare films that focuses on the behind the scenes of the most popular sport in America. It’s appeal comes from how it pulls back the curtain to give fans an insider Hollywood look at what goes into their favorite pastime. It carries the “insider” feel well and will hold any football fan’s attention for that sheer reason alone.
Costner who has always been comfortable in the Hollywood sports scene fits in well as the GM of the Browns. It certainly won’t crack the top ten for his best films but it will fall comfortably in the middle somewhere. The rest of the cast delivers nicely although I wouldn’t venture to say any of the performances are stellar. The real treat is seeing people like Berman, Kiper and Gruden. Plus there is the added bonus of Arian Foster playing the coveted running back Jennings. Okay for those not sports fans those are all real sports people who hold sway with the more than casual football fan.
Draft Day is a fine film. Not high praise I know but considering how the early previews looked it could have been far worse. The problem is that the film is like a long fuse on a bomb. You light it, plug your ears ready for it to explode but then when it doesn’t right away you have to double-check that you actually lit the fuse. All the excitement of the film is packed into the last 20 minutes or so. Now this makes sense from the standpoint that the actual draft is where the majority of the drama is but it doesn’t make for a thriller first half to a film. Ultimately Draft Day is for the sports fans. Anyone who isn’t a fan of football or doesn’t know anything about it should steer clear. Although ladies if you go with your significant other I will say you won’t be entirely bored because there is an okay emotional side story to keep you interested. And hey Brown’s fans perhaps Draft Day will inspire your GM for the upcoming draft this year. Who knows!
6/10 Stars – Informative and interesting but not as riveting and compelling as say running my fantasy football team!
I didn’t realize until the credits rolled that Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Animal House, No Strings Attached) directed Draft Day. Had I known that, I may have gone in with more expectations than I did, but that is ok because I liked Draft Day nonetheless. Now don’t get me wrong, Draft Day isn’t Earth shattering or anything special, but for a football fan like myself, seeing what could “possibly” go on behind the scenes is fun. I think the movie is dumbed down enough for casual fans to understand, but I will say that non-sports fans will not understand most of the terminology or reasoning behind most of the decisions. What I mean by this is no one outside of sports will know the magnitude of draft picks or where a player “should” be drafted. For a movie about the interactions of players/coaches/general managers before an NFL draft (and might I add, actual NFL personnel make appearances), this is a pretty engaging and entertaining movie. My only beef is that you don’t get to see how all the decisions play out… maybe a sequel will come – “Game Day.”
7/10 Stars – Nothing captivating by any means, but as an NFL fan, I was entertained!
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Blu and Jewel have always thought they were the only ones of their kind left. Everything changes when Linda and Tulio while on an expedition in the Amazon have a siting of the rare blue Spix’s Macaw. When Jewel finds out she convinces Blu that they and the kids should make the long flight there to help look for the rest of their kind. When they arrive they are face to face with a tribe of Spix’s Macaw’s that Jewel was born into. Re-uinted with her father, family and friends Jewel wants to stay long term in the Amazon. Blu isn’t so sure because he is having a hard time fitting into the jungle environment. Starring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Rodriogo Santoro, Leslie Mann, Jake T. Austin, Bebel Gilberto, Rita Moreno, Andy Garcia, Kristin Chenoweth, Pierre Gagnon, Kate Micucci, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, Natalie Morales.
Rio 2 is filled with vivid colorful animation, quirky song and dance numbers that is great for a fun family outing. The catch is that Rio 2 doesn’t live up to the standards set by The Lego Movie and Frozen so while it is enjoyable it isn’t trend setting or ground breaking and now that I have seen it I doubt I will bother to watch it again.
Considering this is an animated film the vivid and colorful animation is expected so I am not sure I would consider it a point in the movies favor. I suppose it could have been worse but that isn’t a positive way to think about a movie. However, the younger kids will be captivated by the colorful birds and backgrounds.
I am finding it hard to describe how I felt about this film. It had its moments of fun and funny. They were sporadic so it felt a bit inconsistent at times. The story was simple which is both good and bad. The bad is because it felt at times more like a lesson on how we should treat the environment than it did a plot written for entertainment purposes. The cast of voices really elevated the film. Hathaway and Eisenberg are both great. My favorite was Chenoweth as the adorable poisonous frog. She of course has a great song that helped carry the film through a slow part.
When it comes down to it I was entertained by Rio 2 and feel like it will be great for families to enjoy over the upcoming Easter weekend. Sometimes simple and pretty works it just might not wow and that is okay.
7/10 Stars – Colorful and fun this one is enjoyable but won’t likely make my best animated films list
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Her Review: Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is the pastor at a small church in the tiny town of Imperial Nebraska. His family like so many others have fallen…
His Review: Oculus tells the story of Kaylie (Karen Gillian) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) Russell and how their family was torn apart by a supernatural mirror that hung…
His Review: Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a quiet, yet driven, local shop owner who just wants to keep up with payments to keep his business running. When…
Her Review: Aside from the Super Bowl, Draft Day is one of the biggest days of the NFL season. This draft day, Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr….