Archive for May, 2008

Alvin and The Chipmunks

May 24, 2008

What Is It?

First it was the Witch Doctor song. Then the little voice in the chorus was expanded to three characters and the Chipmunks Christmas song introduced the world to Alvin, Simon and Theodore and the problems David Sivil would have reeling in Alvin. From here there were records and cover songs. In the 60’s there was a Cartoon and it re-emerged in the 80’s and 90’s. Now they are back running though a live action world in all their computer animated glory. The songs are updated with guitar driven riffs and Maria Carry style vocal arrangements but the general themes are all still here. Down and out song writer makes it big when he finds singing chipmunks to sing his songs.

How Was It?

The idea of combining horror movies to make them scarier is not new. Frankenstein met the Wolf man in 1943. Recently Alien vs Predator covered outer space while earthly monster Freddie and Jason teamed up. Of course when executives decided to combining the stomach churning “Garfield the Movie” with the nerve destroying “High school Musical.” The result is here. This is the type of “Schlock and Awe” bubble gum garbage that will make parents wounder if they can hear there children’s brain shriveling up over the high pitched music .Of course David Sivil has been changed into the modern noncommittal song righter with the “Generic” label still showing a bit. The thing that has remained is that all action and comedy hangs on Alvin extracting his name as a frustrated explosion from David’s tormented vocal chords. When this new David breaks loose with “ALVIN!” the disappointment is complete when it sounds more like a little kid pretending to scream in a place where he’s not aloud.

(If that’s not enough, we get to listen to a record executive define all real music as “Justin Timberlake”.)

The best part of the movie was when we got to the “Chase everyone around and have people get hurt in comical ways scene” it abruptly ended long before I though it would. Then, in an act of mercy, the entire movie ended in the next scene.

Is It Good For Children?

This is not the largest moral disaster but there are cautions to be aware of. There are some odd sexual references. While David is on a date, Alvin tries to make things romantic. This not only includes low lights and a fire, but a Barry White style song with a guy saying he wants to do something “Freaky” to the girl. The term is used when Alvin sings “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?” Not only should kids not be hearing about it in that context, but the choice of terms makes is upsetting. There is also a reference to Dave’s “Ex-Mate” that could go ether way.

Though it’s not focused on, there are background dancers and some other women dressed inappropriately and shown in a positive light. During a “Photo Shoot” A man recommends, and demonstrates, how Theodor should spank his own but. Theodor then follows the instructions. It’s the kind of obnoxious gag that will surly show up again in the actions of the younger viewers.

 

You should check Screenit.com for a breakdown of everything on the screen.

What about spiritual issues?

There is not much happening in this arena. There is much made of Christmas with nothing made of Christ. The only time we hear God’s name is when David uses it as a cuss word.

What is your Recommendation?

There are much better things to show kids. If they are going to spend almost two hours watching a movie it seems that there are much better things to see.
If you can not avoid Alvin and the Gang, you will want to talk about issues of family and commitment. You may also have to field a question or two about being “freaky” and watch out for stray but slaping.

 

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ChristopherOuellette.com

 

 

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Lars and the Real Girl

May 24, 2008

 

What Is It?

This is a super quirky movie about a near agoraphobic young man, Lars (Ryan Gosling) who lives in the converted garage of his family’s house. He does some nameless office job, in a cubical, and is still dealing with the death of his parents. Not able to talk to people, he takes a step toward relationships. He buys a life sized female doll on the Internet. They make it very clear that his intentions and actions are never inappropriate. He thinks that Bianca (the doll) is real and is attempting to have a meaningful relationship. At the Doctor’s suggestion, Lars’ brother and sister-in-law talk to neighbors, friends, and the church that Lars attends. They ask each of these groups to “go along with it.”

How Was It?

You do not get much more original (weird) than this. At the same time, it has a classic feel that makes you just accept the weird plot point in a way that is magical. The acting is fresh and real, but the story is fun and odd, making this one of the best times you can have at the movies.

Is It Good For Kids?

Most kids, I do not believe, would be interested in a sentimental character based indie film. If they are, you will want to proceed with caution. The doll is from an inappropriate web page that Lars’ co-worker tells him about in suggestive detail. It is made clear that Lars is not interested in anything like that, but it is still talked about and is the punch line of a few jokes. There are also very tense family situations revolving around the death of parents.

The good part is that there are only 5 real cuss words. The sad part is that they are all misuses of God’s name. Most the time it is uttered by people outside of the church, but the last one is one of the girls who is a member of the choir.

Check out Screenit.com for a complete breakdown of what is on the screen.

How about Spiritual Issues?

This is a very exciting part of the film. The church slowly becomes the central point in town. Lars is the only member of his family who goes. As things progress, he draws more and more people there. There is a wonderful scene where the situation is being explained to the leading families of the church. Some don’t like it. It finally comes down to loving Lars like Jesus would.

Beyond that, though it is beautifully subtle, every major point and philosophy that guides the story comes from and finds it’s culmination in the church and the Scriptures.

What Is Your Recommendation?

This is beautiful and uplifting art. The only thing holding me back from begging you to go see it is the church girl taking the Lord’s name in vain. Still with the prominence of the church, the message that seems to rise from the film, is that living out the words of the Bible, even in the strangest situations, brings love and community. All this packed into a movie with the wit and reality of “Juno” and the odd magic and charm of “Babe, the Gallant Pig”, makes “Lars and the Real Girl” simply amazing.

ChristopherOuellette.com
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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

May 24, 2008

 

What Is It?

This is a theatrically released documentary about the tension between Evolution and Intelligent Design, as well as Free speech. Ben Stein (“Win Ben Stein’s Money,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off“) goes on a Michael Moorestyle quest to understand why the science community and others are out to stop any exploration into the idea that the world was not an accident, but instead shows traces of Design and thus a Designer.

 

How Was It?

It is a documentary that follows the standard story arc of narrative film. This will make it a lot more accessible to viewers not tantalized by a “Good Documentary.” It starts off well and gets a little slow with the rising action. We get interviews often inter cut with ironic music and old movie and news reel clips. We then find out about large groups of scientists, and media people, circling the wagons and “expelling” those who even bring up “Intelligent Design” as an option.  This is interesting for a while. As I started to drift, remembering how the Muppet Baby’s TV show used to also spike it’s dialog with bursts of old black and whites, the movie suddenly jolts us back to the subject at hand. Ben travels to Germany to see how the Nazi interpretation of Darwin was carried out in concentration camps. From here on in, the movie is more gripping and emotional. (Slight Spoiler) And like all good American Narrative film, it comes down to a man vs. man final confrontation as Ben Stein interviews a leading evolutionist/atheist, Richard Dawkins. 

Some of the evolutionists have complained about the film. They have said that they would not have done it, if they fully understood the theme of the film, and they were insulted that some of their interviews were inter cut or linked to archive footage of Nazis. The great thing is that, so far, no one has said that they were misrepresented or that the footage was edited to make them say something that they did not say. Likewise, no one has said that that had done an interview that was cut because it didn’t go with the bias of the film. (Both of these have been complaints with Michael Moore Films.)

 

There is one scene where they are kicked out of the Smithsonian. I could be wrong, but they do not say anything about getting an appointment. This is presented in the tone of “they wouldn’t even talk to us.” I do not think anyone would be allowed to walk into a place like that with a full camera crew and just start doing there shtick. Other than this, they defiantly have a bias but seem to be genuine about the information they present. 

Was it Good for Kids?

 

Though the presentation is well done, there is archive footage of dead bodies in concentration camps and police being rough with people.

You can get a complete breakdown of what is on the screen at Screenit.com  

What About Spiritual Issues?

 

This movie deals with Spirituality but in a very “Scientific” way. They are very clear that I.D. is not promoting the creation story of any one religion. In one interview we find that a prominent ID research group employs Christians, Muslim’s, Jews, Agnostics, and others. A woman Journalist identifies herself as non-religious Jewish. It is also made clear (with a short list) that the ID research group has taken no money from prominent fundamental Christian leaders (such as Pat Robinson) and is not fighting for “prayer in school” among other things.

 

This movie also has a large section that shows the hopelessness, and subsequent moral decline, that follows a rejection of the idea of a deity existing.  

The issue is freedom of speech and allowing scientists to do research and have their work in the same forum. This is a wonderful message, it is just not evangelical or specifically “Christian.” With that said, most Christians will be excited to hear the points made in this film.

 

What has been the Reaction?

This movie accused Academia, the scientific community, and the media, of joining forces to suppress the free speech of people who believe in Intelligent Design, as a legitimate scientific inquiry, by loudly proclaiming that ID scientists are not real scientists, that they have no legitimate data and are only trying to force a religion on the country.

 

So far the media has been reporting that the scientific community and Academia have seen this film. They tell us that the movie is not worth watching because the scientific community has found that this movie is just a subversive attempt to force a religion on the country by using fake science with no legitimate data… Hummmm…. 

What Is Your Recommendation?

Check out the web page and the tailor, , and if you have a chance, go see the film. This will give you a lot to talk about. The unfortunate thing about this film is that most people who see it will already agree with the final points and just be left thinking “I wish my friend So and So would see this, but they never would.” Still, if you can get So and So to come with you, I’m sure you will have a great discussion afterward.