Dad Confession: One Direction

This is my “Dad Confession” for the day.

So I had a moment this morning that should remain private. What happens in the car when you’re alone should remain in the car. Right! Here I am innocently driving my car to work when I hear the local radio station doing live crosses from the local school. Its cute, they play the school choir and everything seems right with the world. But then in a moment of weakness it happened. I don’t know what it was, maybe the first few bars of the song, the sweet production or simply a neuron relapse in the left back lower quadrant of my frontal lobe? Continue reading “Dad Confession: One Direction”

Movie Review: Broken City

Broken City

Honesty has a price and history is the debt collector. Broken City takes a cop who made a bad decisions then adds a Mayor keeping score and presents you with a recipe for deception. This is the position detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in and the result means a seat on the bench until Mayor Nick Hostetler calls him up for the ‘end game’ days out from a re-election voting day. The Mayor suspecting his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of being unfaithful calls a favour from Taggart and so the fuse is lit.

If there is one thing Broken City proved to me it’s that Mark Wahlberg may be a more versatile actor than Tom Cruise. Ouch, did that come out loud?! Now this may be the shock our sensibilities need but I think Mark Wahlberg would have been the better actor to have filled Jack Reacher’s shoes. If anything should be conceded it’s the fact that Wahlberg does ‘street rough’ better than Tom. Hey even Tom Cruise would concede he can’t do ‘moody’. That’s just something a Scientologist couldn’t admit too. Wahlberg can present an uneasy hero onscreen and it gives the audience both empathy and expectation. Both of these characteristics play well into a director’s hands as he can keep the audience rooting for the character to the end.

Of less worthy recognition was Russell Crowe. This was not an iconic role for the Gladiator. In all honesty I felt like he pulled the Jeffrey Wigand character back out of his 2000 movie, The Insider, gave it a tux and whisky glass to see if it would work. Even the voice was more Jeffrey Wigand and less New York native. It simply didn’t work and the movie suffered on producing the role it really needed to push the storyline to the limit.

I was expecting less from Broken City and yet it delivered so much more. Yes, a predictable political thriller in some respects, but actually it was true to the genre rather than boring by script. Like any good thriller there must be multiple suspects, false starts and dead ends to keep the movie from petering out at 60 minutes and thankfully we had both a script and a cast that didn’t disappoint. Watch for a superb performance from Jeffrey Wright as the Police Commissioner. His menacing grip on the politics and the way he plays off the other characters will keep the neurons itching to work out what is his motivation or who is pulling his strings. Catherine Zeta-Jones simply didn’t get enough screen time and she deserved it. The lady has class and should be picking up more roles that allow her to presence the screen rather than trying to dance hip-hop in Rock of Ages. Barry Pepper also continues to impress. I loved his Bobby Kennedy role in the TV mini-series, The Kennedys and this role of upstart Connecticut mayoral candidate Jack Valliant (yup, real name), was a role to play with for Pepper. There is one emotional cliff edge moment that he drives home in style. Brilliant performance.

Mark Wahlberg not only starred in but also produced this movie bringing in director Allen Hughes to pick up on the script from first-time writer Brian Tucker. Hughes enabled the movie to keep a dark yet foreboding story through some well-lit sets that mixed warmth and dark in an uneasy tango. It was an interesting mix that could keep an audience in a state of dilemma asking am I comfortable or simply being setup. Broken City has moments of brilliance thanks mainly to the supporting cast and enough of an entertaining maze to make it worth entering the front door of the theatre.

3 out of 5 popcorns

Movie Review: Flight

Flight - Denzel Washington

The new Denzel Washington movie Flight will hurt you. It doesn’t matter what your expectations are this is a movie with a story that will make you ache and wish it would go away. It won’t be hard for you to agree with me that Denzel has always fallen squarely on the side of ‘good’ leading man. Sure we can talk about the mastery of playing the corrupt cop in 2001’s Training Day or the imperfect hero in the Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 but Denzel is the dependable rock of values and integrity. Until now! Moments into the film and your Mum is going to wish she’d never met that Denzel boy.

Flight is a story of brokenness. It stumbles through the life of ‘Whip’ Whitaker a domestic airline pilot on a daily grind getting passengers across continental USA. It’s something he does in his sleep. The trouble is some of that sleep is induced from a life falling apart on booze and kick-starts from cocaine. He’s got cracks where a man shouldn’t have cracks and it shows.

So as Whip boards a regular morning flight and punches the plane through a storm base all seems on the edge of normal. He’s in control, that is until disaster hits. The story of Flight surrounds the saviour spinning skills of a pilot under the influence of drink drugs and a hard night before. As the plane with 106 souls on board looks to meet terra firm without an introduction Whip pulls the wildcard out of his back pocket and saves the day with a manoeuvre that is definitely not in the training manual . The rest of the film will wind you through an aircraft crash investigation that asks was there a fault, a hero, a callous and indifferent initiator or ‘D’ all of the above.

Our cast of Flight provides a great tag team of dealing with the issues. Somehow ‘thrown together’ Whip meets a broken and drug dependant Nicole played by Kelly Reilly who you will remember as Watson’s fiancé in the Sherlock Holmes movies. We then ask can love save the day and should it. Don Cheadle makes the ideal corporate lawyer protecting the airline owner’s interest while trying to work with a sometimes out of control Washington. Bruce Greenwood shows the struggle of wanting to watch out for an old flying buddy as the airline’s union rep while recognising that sometimes people have to hit the wall on their own. The disturbingly well played role however goes to John Goodman for his 3min of screen time as Whittaker’s buddy and drug supplier. You’ll want to laugh but you know you’re not allowed.

It’s great to see Robert Zemeckis back to directing a real life movie after a thirteen year hiatus after he got Tom Hanks off Castaway island. The directing, cast and story is woven well for a movie supposedly made for just over $30million. The storyline came from writer and actor John Gatins. This unique talent has picked up a number of acting roles but it is definitely his recent writing works including Real Steel and Coach Carter and now Flight that are winning him a number of fans even producing the momentum for us to see Real Steel 2 now announced.

For Flight, you’ll be amazed at how hard it is to answer the morality question. You will keep being drawn in like a co-dependant housewife who’s abusive husband keeps coming home drunk. He apologises, brings roses and then lets you down again. As an audience you want Whip to win and so Denzel is the ideal focal point for the Whip Whittaker character. You see the hurt, the struggle and the occasional glimmer of hope but can it, should it work. Like the opening scene as Whip pilots the plane off the tarmac in a hairy electrical storm, you can see the gap in the black stormy madness and you want to punch through. The question is, will there be enough in the emotional tank to last the journey. Flight makes you hurt because you don’t see the rider on a white horse with a silver bullet. Maybe it’s more real, but it all felt more gritty and desperate. A great story that makes you wonder what happened.

For language, nudity and drug use Flight has been rated accordingly at R16. Now once you’ve seen Flight you will have the evidence before you and you will need to make a call as you leave the theatre. Should good overcome bad as we play the roulette wheel with morality chips. Can you forgive a fallen hero?

Rated: R16 for Offensive language, drug use & sexual themes

4 out of 5 popcorns

Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel

If you follow the age-old tale, the children, Hansel & Gretel are taken in to the dark of the woods by their father after their stepmother orders them to be kicked out in order to leave enough food for the other children, hers. After their survival trail of breadcrumbs is lost they are left to survive in the deepest part of the terrifying night and all seems lost. However all doesn’t seem so bad when they stumble upon a house made of candy and chocolate and all seems to be right with the world. Enter the evil witch, kids kill the witch all ends happily ever after. Now isn’t that how fairy tales are meant to end so we can all go back to sleep!?

With the release of the 3D Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters to bring a ‘classic tale with a new twist’ the ‘kids’ will survive only to take up a career from that early workplace experience in witch killing. The twins head out into the world becoming witch hunting mercenaries. As our story will start we are in Augsburg where worried parents are wanting any sign of a witch expunged from their community. Hansel and Gretel enter to save the day but with the Blood Moon about to rise on the community we are one more child kidnapping away from a witch frenzy.

While the story could have some premise it never creates the tension to make you feel it could all end badly and set the platform for disaster or deliverance. This fairy tale really just becomes a nightmare on so many levels. The script is occasionally funny but not enough to be a comedy. Dropping in an occasional ‘F’ bomb is meant to make us laugh at the out of place culture shock from the medieval setting. Hansel’s constant injections to deal with the sweet tooth he got as a kid munching on the witch’s candy and gingerbread should be an infomercial for a diabetic’s organisation but that would be too interesting.

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy! I like Jeremy Renner – a lot; but this was painful. Part of the buzz prior to release was because of Mr Renner’s involvement in the production but seriously Jeremy, what were you thinking. I hope someone sat his agent down and had a really good talk about any future productions involving fairy tales, witches or 3D. Yes, I want Jeremy Renner’s black leather jacket costume but the role can go to someone else.

This revamp, steampunk, gorefest version of the story just isn’t for kids and probably not for tasteful adults either. Norwegian director, Tommy Wirkola has brought together the acting talent and what could have been a unique telling of the old story and left it somewhere in the bad video game basket. It’s the kind of movie that gives 3D technology a bad name. The idea of having an immersive aspect to the movie theatre doesn’t mean keep throwing things out of the screen until the audience stop screaming. Sure, it’s meant to be ‘fantasy’ but the death by ogre routines were left over from Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained cutting room floor.

Gemma Arterton arms up as Gretel and sure she and Renner kick some witch butt, BUT it doesn’t help the movie. Arterton took Jennifer Lawrence’s bow and arrow routine up a level with a cross-bow on steroids while wearing leather pants that you should not be able to run in but it wasn’t enough. Famke Janssen put in a Phoenix style performance that actually works better when the special effects makeup isn’t in place. With Peter Stormare making an appearance I hoped for more high calibre bad guy but his character was stepped on reasonably early. We also have a small witchy poo role for kiwi actress Zoe Bell who has previously been a stunt double for Lucy Lawless as Xena and Urma Thurman in the Kill Bill series. Watch for her also in Django Unchained.

I wanted to like Hansel & Gretel, I really did. We’ll see in the rear view mirror what the public thinks, but I think the only money the studios may make out of this is by suing the other two 2013 releases that are also out under the name Hansel & Gretel. Sad, but not the fantasy action fare we had hoped for when the posters and trailer looked oh so good.

R16 – Violence, offensive language & horror.

2 out of 5 popcorns

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Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

If you loved The Hurt Locker you will be champing at the bit to find a seat and have everyone quiet down so you can immerse yourself in the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Director Kathryn Bigelow has taken the Hurt Locker experience to a new level as you won’t be sure whether you’re watching the six o’clock news or waiting with President Obama in a locked down situation room waiting for reports from the field. The movie opens brilliantly in pitch black with only the audio of armed forces radio as well as snippets of iconic media reports on the terrorist events we have heard and seen over the last twelve years. Don’t be late for the opening ten minutes.

Bigelow has again collaborated with Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal to craft a story that perfectly tracks through time from the 911 bombings to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The Zero Dark Thirty story is one of a decade long frustration amongst a worn and tired group of operatives. Agents follow up on dead-end leads and try to determine if pre-911 tactics are still in use by al-Qaeda. The desperation builds as they watch time waft away sometimes for lack of evidence and then because of a bureaucracy that stops initiative. As the CIA struggles to deliver UBL (Usama bin Laden) mistakes are made and the agency begins to question its own direction.

To follow the connection points in time we join CIA operative Maya played by Jessica Chastain. Her recent work in dramatic endeavours like The Help and The Debt showcase an immeasurable talent that some would have seen at even deeper level in more art-house productions like The Tree of Life and Coriolanus. Chastain’s character is recorded as coming straight out of high school into the one project that will absorb her life and focus. Her youthful determination is initially idealistic and head strong but as the pain grows through lost colleagues and searching for the needle in the wrong terrorist haystack the quest begins to mount its toll.

While the movie primarily concentrates on a nation’s search for its hidden oppressor, it has a side benefit of showing the danger a nation and its citizens can fall into in their desire for justice. One of the strong outcomes of the movie is to show how terrorist suspects and collaborators were caught, caged and interrogated. Some very strong scenes in the early part of the movie will be difficult for many to watch. While the justification for dealing with one’s enemy is clear, the means through which justice is carried out is not.

By watching the torture to find answers we ask ourselves whether we are complicit and whether we would prefer this work was done by other members of our society. In fact we wish this was done in secret to allow us the peace of ignorance. Another interesting question asked through the eyes of the CIA agents is whether too much time at the front line of investigation and torturous interrogation is a step towards a tipping point where the despised tactics becomes the desired power.

The nature of the script calls for a strong supporting cast and with performances from Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Strong the movie is held in firm hands within every scene. While the movie is over two and a half hours long it’s the cast that carries it well from scene to scene. Joel Edgerton finally brings together the ground forces that will ultimately bring the prize home near the end of the story but not before James Gandolfini authorises the strike through the President in his role as CIA Director. I love seeing the occasional cameo from favourite actors given screen time on big event movies and seeing John Barrowman and a glimpse of Mark Valley in this outing was perfect.

One thing you won’t find in this review is the meaning behind the movie’s title. If you’re smart enough to know then don’t share and allow others to find it in the script. If you don’t know yourself then don’t look it up. See the movie and join the treasure hunt for the answers. For Zero Dark Thirty Bigelow and Boal have worked extremely well together as Director and Writer but also in the role of producers. Already the film is picking up awards for directing, writing, editing and as best film at critics and film festival events. Now we can watch for talk of Oscars for Zero Dark Thirty it’s really that good.

4 out of 5 popcorns.

God’s Own Country – 100% New Zealand

God's Own Country

God’s Own Country

Leave aside the fight for who invented the Pavlova. If that’s what the Aussies want then let them have the meringue. It doesn’t taste the same without some fresh Kiwi dairy cream whipped into a frenzy like Martin Crowe at the wicket in an 80’s one-dayer and layered over the top like Ian Jones reaching over those short French rugby players in an All Black line-out. And you can be sure that an Aussie pav won’t have that pièce de résistance of a few slices of kiwifruit to give the sweet some bite. You know some dessert eaters are a bunch of namby pamby wannabes. The real discussion is about where is God’s Own Country.

New Zealand has always been 100% God’s Own Country as even the researchers have proven and its a title many would fear to compete for. While Aussie has a reef and the Yanks some hole in the ground they call a canyon, the Poms may have a Lake District and the Europeans rave about their mountains but which of them can say they’ve been able to bring all that natural majesty into a country the size of George Bush’s backyard? This is more than a Shire in Middle Earth or a playground for the extreme adventurer. New Zealand is a paradise that angels won’t leave and demons won’t visit.The green undulating hills mesh with crystal clear waters while man and beast walk amongst the creation that God is still rolling out years after the first seven day first edition. Some joker called Thomas Bracken back in the 1800s wrote a stanza or two on the subject and he really caught what God’s Own Country is all about. He must of known what he was talking about because he came from Ireland, checked out Australia and then decided New Zealand was the place to be. Now some of those young whipper snappers who do the marketing have tended to shorten God’s Own Country to save on thumb rsi on their mobiles but whether you’re shouting Godzone or Godsown it really is just a country that’s a sparkle in His eye.

Coming to the 100% New Zealand experience will always be hard on the senses so preparation is important. If you’ve coming from somewhere droll like an inner city apartment block or the terrace housing of Coronation Street then you should take the time to prepare. Acclimatizing prior to your trip is important. We recommend two ways to adjust to your holiday in God’s Own Country.The preferable way would be by visualisation as you watch several All Black matches to pick up on the warrior culture of the nation. Follow this up with a twelve hour marathon of Lord of the Rings to ensure the scenery won’t overwhelm you on your first introduction. To encompass the full sensory experience you should visit your local florist once a day for a month prior to travelling to New Zealand. Shoving your head into a floral bouquet should prepare both eyes for the visual assault of colour as well as your nasal cavities for the fragrance of the New Zealand bush. Language may be an issue in travelling to a foreign land for some travellers so to pick up on the Kiwi accent we would advise that you start to watch less of Neighbours and more of Flight of the Conchords.

So visiting New Zealand might be a wee trip for you but I can tell you its the shortest distance to Heaven theologically known. The folk at Air New Zealand will get you here and their safety is world renowned so you’ll be in good hands. Now if you think we’re concerned about this rugged wilderness and whether we have internetness or the electricity thingamajig then do not fear. We all visit the local McDonald’s carpark to use their free Wifi but its a good place to catchup with the whanau (family) over a New Zealand lamb burger. The pristine waters of our rivers drive our national hydro-electricity so the only Nuclear power plant you’ll see is on the hotel television with Homer kicking back a donut on the Simpsons.

Truth be told when God created this place he kicked the snake out of Eden and they’ve been populating Australia ever since. That’s the reason we love to sing our National Anthem. It was that same young Irishman, Thomas Bracken, who wrote the poem ‘God’s Own Country’, who then caught the heart of our nation when he wrote our national anthem. Its the deep lyrics that resonate when we sing and they put awe in the heart of the admirer and fear in the eyes of our adversaries. It stirs the heart, reminds you why you’re thankful to live in God’s Own Country and then gives you a sense you’re in a good place where God is looking after the place. Why don’t you come on down. I’ll tell St. Peter to meet you at the airport’s pearly gates.

Sign Here: Parent’s iPhone Contract

Yesterday I found out about Janelle Hoffman, a mum of five who has found a piece of well deserved fame for a blog she wrote on Christmas day about her son’s iPhone Contract. Janelle had soared up the Parental award charts when she bought her 13yo son Gregory an iPhone for Christmas. However her status as ‘Mom of the Year’ probably wavered when Gregory found that Santa’s delivery came with a little legalise in the form of an iPhone contract.

Gregory’s response was probably a sweet and sour reaction summed up in one word “Why?” He had finally broken through his Mum’s defences after a year of stealth ‘nag attack’ and now, just when he had the goal in sight, the judicious disclaimers and rights and responsibilities were thrust into view. What ever happened to a gift being a gift or trust and love?

Now let’s all calm down a bit because what I’ve read of Janell’s blog is a well crafted 18 point document. While Janell’s blog title calls it a contract and that probably gained a lot of publicity, the reality is its a superb set of guidelines. Her wording and points show a Mum who must have a wonderful relationship with her son and the points she has made will form great life lessons for all. Kudos to Janell for a contract crafted with wisdom and love.

The point is made that many adults in both their personal and work lives could do with a phone contract like this. Sometimes we err too much on the side of personal freedom and forget about personal responsibility. Janell has set about one of the most important tasks in parenthood. She has shown Gregory what a trusted and loved son can be rewarded with and helped him understand the old Spiderman hit phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

My favourite in the list is number 14 and one I will be doing more often.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision.  It is not alive or an extension of you.  Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.

Here is the YouTube video and then a link below to Janell’s original blog post.

Thanks for reading. Please tell me in the comments section if you would give your son or daughter a contract like this.

Janell’s Original iPhone Contract Post – Follow Janell on Twitter

First World Problems

#FirstWorldProblem

“First World Problems” has become the throw-away line for numbers of people when dealing with a 10 second problem in their day. The phrase first world problems is meant to lighten the load on the stuff we ‘deal with’ but it is also demeaning to people in the third world dealing with real issues like lack of water, medicine, clothing and education or being persecuted for their beliefs.

So is there a real issue or are we too soft for the real world? Read through the rest of this post, watch the two videos. Take my First World Problems challenge at the end and tell me your thoughts in the comments  area. Ryan Higa (NigaHiga), a YouTube celebrity recently did this tongue in cheek look at First World Problems. If you haven’t heard about FWP then this is a good introduction.

First World Problems Reality Check

Most parents will be aware of the dilemma of letting your child play in the dirt or touch other children while playing. If you isolate the child from the problem, they may not catch this weeks bug, but they also may not build up the immunity for next week’s virus. I believe we may be seeing a generation of kids who think the worst thing in the world is losing Wi-Fi at home or a smartphone that won’t charge. As parents we’ve got to let them deal with it and not run rescue missions for technology.

One thing is sure, in the ‘first world’ we may have the riches of wealth, technology and education yet we still don’t seem to have the mental strength of those living in the ‘third world’. Their ability to face adversity and dig deep through natural disasters and family tragedy are often a lesson to us. Here at home we have to ask what are the things that we can do without, the crutches that could strengthen our unused muscles both physically and mentally.

Recently a charity raising funds for water ran this First World Problems viral video campaign. Watch the faces of this video and ask yourself whether we know what are the real issues.

If you would like to take action in the real world I would encourage you to visit the links on these buttons to help someone with a real issue that could do with your financial support today. When you visit the site, look at their current needs or sponsor a child and make a difference.

Be a First World Solution to a Third World Problem

[button link=”http://www.tearfund.org.nz/” type=”icon” icon=”heart” newwindow=”yes”] Tear Fund[/button]   [button link=”http://www.gfa.org.nz/” type=”icon” icon=”heart” newwindow=”yes”]

Gospel for Asia[/button]   [button link=”http://www.worldvision.org.nz/” type=”icon” icon=”heart” newwindow=”yes”] World Vision[/button]   [button link=”http://www.opendoors.org.nz/” type=”icon” icon=”heart” newwindow=”yes”] Open Doors[/button]

 

Movie Review: Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher

The Jack Reacher movie character comes to us from a series of books written by Lee Child. Starting in 1997 with Killing Floor, Child has now released 17 books and some short stories that carry the adventures of Military Policeman and investigator Jack Reacher. The movie starring Tom Cruise was taken from the 2005 release of ‘One Shot’. Originally the screenplay was written by Josh Olsen but a turn of events including arbitration meant that Usual Suspects writer, Christopher McQuarrie became the writer and director.

The story of Jack Reacher is one of a loner, a thinking man’s vigilante and a man with hidden stories to be told. Lee Child has developed the character over 15 years of writing and the audience are used to the idiosyncrasies that make up this complex character. He is known for being on the move, never wearing clothes for more than two days and eating on the run with only a coffee constantly at hand. Three key things we pick up from his character are his disdain for religion, his love for the Blues and his attraction to mathematics. His fights are more about conducting the orchestra than playing the bassoon. In one fight with a two metre tall thug he is seen to turn him upside down and land him on his head. It’s one aspect of the movie that works with some brilliant fight choreography.

All of this background provided the preliminary irony for a fan base that didn’t expect Tom Cruise could fill the 6’ 5” shoes of a larger than life character. Not only was the 5’ 7” Cruise seen as out of sorts with the shadow of Reacher he also had the mismatch with Cruise’s approach to life and religion through the Church of Scientology. So how did Cruise match up on screen? Lee Child has been quoted as saying; “Reacher’s size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way.”

It’s true that Tom Cruise has shown an incredible amount of skill and determination in each role he plays. The recent outing in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol gained a great deal of credibility with fans and the public for the stunts the newly turned 50yo took on, particularly at the Burk Khalifa building in Dubai where he conducted wire stunts floors above the ground. If there is one thing that Cruise exudes it’s the epitome of smooth. In every scene he communicates control. It’s a badge of honour for Cruise and it comes into the Reacher character. The question is, does this match the original character from the pages of the novel that fans came to love. While I haven’t read the Reacher novels I gain the sense from a number of fans that he’s more of a ‘donkey on the edge’ with a sense that any moment he may tip over the brink. That raw aspect of the character doesn’t come through and while the movie is quite a ride it doesn’t sing in the unpredictable quotient.

The cast is an eclectic mix with villain puppet master Werner Herzog providing some level of supreme antagonist but the character doesn’t reach the heights. His muscle man is picked up by Australian actor Jai Courtney, who may be known to readers from “Packed to the Rafters” and “All Saints”. Courtney adds some validity to the thug side of the equation and this is a great step up role before we will see him as John McClane’s son Jack in next year’s Die Hard sequel A Good Day to Die Hard. Rosamund Pike becomes Reacher’s aide de camp in an investigation that must discover whether the opening discovery is of a villain or a victim. She steps outside of some her better roles and this seems to almost be the blonde moll in a gangster movie. Her character is often not believable and sometimes laughable. It was interesting in a number of scenes to hear the audience laughing at what they felt were unbelievable comic moments, probably out of sync with the action genre.

One thing that is clear about this venture is that two rules of movie production don’t play out so well. One being casting and the other the fortune teller’s curse of timing. The preview screenings were cancelled in the US because of the Connecticut shootings and the opening scene explains the validity of that decision. Whether the big movie production animal that promotes Jack Reacher will have to change tact in order to make the most of holiday screenings is yet to be seen.

The key to this review however is how important casting is to a successful venture. Many movies sink or swim on this aspect alone. Sometimes a director gets a pleasant surprise out of a last minute scheduling change that gives them an unexpected actor but a surprise result. Can you imagine Tom Cruise in iRobot or Enemy of the State? Both were roles he was expected to take before they went to Will Smith. Let’s see if the reverse is also true and the executives at Paramount can breathe a sigh of relief.

All up a fun ride but not quite the edge of your seat event we expected. 3 out of 5 popcorns.

Movie Review: Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance

I’ve just discovered the ‘must see’ movie of the holiday season and despite the play on words “Parental Guidance” is fun for the whole family. My wife and youngest two kids (12yo and 14yo) went to see Billy Crystal’s new movie on Wednesday night and we’re giving it more than two thumbs up. The kids pushed through the initial shock factor when we told them they were seeing the voice of Mike Wazowski (Monsters Inc) in real life and we all settled in to an enjoyable night.

The 64yo Crystal is joined by the ageless Bette Midler as the ‘other Grandparents’ who are called on to help their ‘successful’ daughter get a much needed break. These modern parents have kept each of their unique kids in line with a plan for success but have since become disconnected from the grandparents. Next we find a serendipity of events brings everybody together where some wisdom and age are able to bring the family together with some old fashioned common sense.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a justification for the ‘old ways’. The heart of this movie comes from Billy Crystal being able to put himself at the centre of the humour. The opening story shows Crystal’s character as a Baseball game announcer who loses his job. Just when our empathy level is reasonably reaching its peak we also see the thoughtlessness and selfish stupidity that also needs to be brought into check. The whole script is a brilliant vehicle for Billy Crystal and you would think you were attending a 100min long introduction to the Oscars he is so famous for hosting. Bette Midler keeps guiding Crystal and the rest of the family through the experience and thankfully we also got an opportunity to hear her sing as well as matching Billy Crystal’s comedic genius with a glint and a glare. The screenplay itself centres around the family’s patterns and schedules. It’s a sugar free environment that needs care and control, two factors that will be missing in order to stir up a recipe for bedlam. A classic piece involves Crystal trying to get out of his parental duties to audition as an announcer for the X-Games where Tony Hawk is in a cameo role skating a half-pipe and putting him at the centre of a recipe for disaster. The comedy and consequences are brilliant as the entire story comes together.

Marisa Tomei gave a superb performance as a Mum stressed to ‘burn-out’ with a heart of gold. Her husband Phil the electronics genius is played by Tom Everett Scott who brings the calming influence to the story apart from when his alter-ego ‘Nigel’ appears on the scene. The real joy though comes from the three grandchildren, Harper, Turner and Barker. Bailee Madison brings a long list of credits to the role of Harper a tense young 12yo violinist who needs to let go and live life but wants to please her Mum in pursuit of a music scholarship. Her younger brother Turner is the speech impaired 8yo played by Joshua Rush. The irony of this role for this young actor is that he has quite a number of acting credits particularly as a voice actor for animated performances but it’s in this role that he hits a ‘home run’ in the closing scenes. Cutie pie award however goes to Kyle Harrison Breitkopf who plays the precocious 5yo Barker. The red head is dynamite and lace on screen. Add to that his acting sidekick character of Carl the imaginary kangaroo friend and you’ve got quite a team. One of the best scenes of the movie involves Carl and Gedde Watanabe in the role of family friend and ‘Pan Asian’ restaurant owner Mr Cheng. The emotion and laughs from these few minutes is worth the movie ticket alone.

As we talked about Parental Guidance on the way home we all agreed this was a movie that had a laugh for everybody and a message for every age group. The grandparents learned to contribute their time and wisdom as well as to roll in the mud with the grandchildren. For the parents it was time to relax and let their Mum and Dad take the reins and the kids picked up a few pointers on life from the mistakes and lessons learned by their elders as well as the love and confidence a family can bring.

Parental Guidance needs no excuse for anyone in the family. Take the 6 year old, the teenagers, bring Mum and Dad to pay for popcorn and the grandparents to buy the ice-creams on the way home. 4 out of 5 popcorns.