Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review – Two Perspectives

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Poster

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening of Guardians of the Galaxy and agreed to write a review. Given that I have never seen a Marvel movie as an adult, I brought along my best friend since she’d have some clue what was going on. This review is from two perspectives – someone who knows the franchise and someone who does not.

The following review is from my friend who goes by Aunt Zoni on this blog.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie about a ragtag group of unlikely superheroes who save the galaxy from an evil bad guy. It’s also a movie about a group of reluctant friends who find common ground in their pain and loss, and save each other. The fact that both of these stories are woven together in a skillful blend of thrilling action, sly humor, amazing special effects, and a fantastic soundtrack, is likely to make this movie a huge summer hit.

The movie opens in 1988, where we find our hero, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), as a young boy whose mother is dying. As he runs away from the hospital in his grief, he’s whisked away by a spaceship, and we are off and running, with a jump to 26 years in the future. Peter has adopted the name Star-Lord, and has become a “Ravager”, making his way around the galaxy collecting artifacts, and selling them to interested buyers. He retrieves an item known as “The Orb”, which puts him in the crosshairs of the bad guy, Ronan, and his henchmen.

Star-Lord’s misadventures find him imprisoned with Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically modified, walking raccoon; Rocket’s sidekick/bodyguard Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a giant tree being of limited vocabulary; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the unwillingly adopted daughter of the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin); and Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista), a man whose only goal in life is avenging the deaths of his family against Ronan. These unlikely allies band together to escape their prison, and eventually, to become heroes and save the day.

All of our heroes are dealing with loss, abandonment, emotional pain, alienation, and loneliness. As they work together to stop Ronan’s evil plans, they find companionship and support, and form a family. It’s unusual to find these themes in your typical sci-fi shoot ‘em up, but this movie is anything but typical, and the emotional aspects of the film are handled well by the cast and writer/director James Gunn.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film are the 1970s and 1980s music and pop culture references found throughout. Peter’s ties to Earth, his mother, and childhood, are maintained via a cassette mix tape, which he plays on his Walkman and the rockin’ stereo system in his spaceship, and which provides the unusual and amusing soundtrack for the film. You’ll definitely want to buy the soundtrack album by the end of the movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and fans of the Marvel films will find several references to tie the movie into the larger universe of the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Avengers movies. Whether Star-Lord and his merry band will show up in a crossover with any of the other Marvel films remains to be seen, but it seems likely, given the clues we see.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, humorous, and surprisingly emotional film, that kids will probably enjoy for its irreverent humor and complex characters. It’s probably best for older kids who can handle the intense, sometimes violent action, and mild amount of profanity. There isn’t much gore to speak of, but there is a lot of gunfire, and many characters in peril. It’s definitely a film that will have you talking about the characters and their journey after leaving the theater, and probably wishing to see it again.

That’s a pretty impressive reviews from Aunt Zoni, yes? So, are you going to go see Guardians of the Galaxy?

As a newbie to this movie franchise, I was very impressed with the movie. I had no clue going in what the movie was about. All I knew is that it took place in an alternate universe, which, honestly, means nothing to me other than maybe I shouldn’t go to this movie. While I had no prior knowledge of the characters or the story, I followed along easily, laughed at the appropriate parts, and walked away connected to the characters. For parents who need to go with their kids, you’ll likely enjoy it quite well. If you’re tagging along just to hang out with your friends or partner, keep an open mind and just go with it.

The screening was in 3D, but the movie will also be available in 2D. Action movie, alternative universe, and 3D would have made me skip this movie. But that wasn’t an option. I think the 3D effects were well-done and appropriately incorporated into the movie. There were very few random things just flying at you for the sake of 3D.

And I can’t do a review without mentioning the music. I’m connected to the 70s and 80s through music. It’s what I grew up with and, ultimately, what connected me to this movie. Without any real understanding or interest in the movie going it, hearing familiar music from the first moments was something that drew me in. I figured it couldn’t be all that bad with cool music from my childhood. And I was right! Music is such a universal language and it’s what drew me in to their alternative universe and kept me interested.

Sure, there’s the adorable Groot and the spicy-tongued, sarcastic Rocket. And those two really do a lot to steal the show. But it was the music that left me feeling connected to Star-Lord and his mixed-tape band of friends. If you’re into the movie franchise, you’ll be very pleased with how the story and characters are treated. If you’re like me and have no real connection to the movie and are thinking of ways to feign illness so you don’t have to go I suggest you go along. I’m confident you’ll enjoy it. I think I surprised Aunt Zoni by how much I really did like the movie. So, go! See Guardians of the Galaxy. If nothing else, you’ll love Groot!


Guardians of the Galaxy website and mobile site

Like Guardians of the Galaxy on Facebook

Follow Guardians of the Galaxy on Twitter
Running Time: 121 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Written by: Nicole Perlman and James Gunn
Directed by: James Gunn
Themes: loss, family, friendship, sacrifice for the greater good, found families, good vs evil


How To Turn Your Smartphone Into A Karaoke Machine

iRig Voice

Disclosure: I received a complimentary iRig Voice Microphone.

External Microphone

I’m a child of the ’70s and ’80s, so when I hear microphone I immediately think of the Mr. Microphone ads with the guy leaning out being all cool and suave trying to pick up girls. That ad today would be torn to shreds. Back then, though, it was memorable and made every kid want a Mr. Microphone.

Unlike the Mr. Microphone, the iRig Voice microphone is actually a real mic. It connects to most smartphones, comes in 5 fun colors, and delivers professional quality sound. I got the pinkish-orange one and I’ll be heading to the craft store to get plenty of gems to glamify it! I may be in my 40s, but I’m channeling my inner rock star!

I’ve never been one to go out and do karaoke. But I love singing along to music. And so does BabyGirl. Although, she channels her inner Simon Cowell when it comes to my signing. And, yah, she’s called my singing “pitchy” a few times. But she’s never called me “dawg”, so there’s that!

Anyway, back at So You Think You Can Sing – Home Edition I’m loving this microphone and the EZ Voice app (available for iOS and Android). I just upload my favorite songs and the app removes the original vocals so I can sing along. The iRig Voice operates through the headphone jack on the smartphone and you can even connect headphones so you can hear yourself singing. Although, why limit your signing to just you?

Let’s talk features:

  • Handheld vocal microphone delivers professional sound quality
  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, newer Mac models and Android devices
  • Compact cardioid pattern minimizes feedback
  • Constructed of durable, lightweight thermoplastic
  • Available in 5 colors: Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink and White
  • Comes with EZ Voice app
  • Works with dozens of karaoke, sing-along and music making apps
  • Headphone jack for real-time monitoring
  • Convenient on/off switch located on the mic

EZ Voice Android EZ Voice Samsung EZ Voice iPhone FX EZ Voice iPhone

While this is a pro-style microphone its main goal is to let you have fun. The instruction manual is minimal, but you don’t really need it (and, really, when was the last time you read the manual for your electronics). Even if you don’t upgrade to the paid version of EZ Voice you’ve got several professional effects you can use. I’ll spare you my recording of me singing Madonna’s Lucky Star. Just imagine it being awesome!

At $39.99, you’ll find the iRig Voice from IK MultiMedia is at many popular big-box stores you normally shop at as well as a number of online stores. If you’re looking for something smaller that will enhance smartphone videos you take then consider the “must have” iRig Mic Cast.

External Microphone

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. All thoughts and opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Innovative Cable, Dock, and Tripod for Your Smartphone

Smartphone Cable Tripod

smartphone cable

I love Kickstarter. And I love technology. So when Jon contacted me about trying his Kickstarter-funded Une Bobine smartphone cable I had to say YES. Not just because it’s a great idea, but because it solves a problem I have – my phone gets lost on my desk.

I use several phones at the same time because I’m often tech-driving new devices. I’ll put them through the paces and end up with low battery warnings. And if you know how much lawyers love their paper, you can imagine what my desk looks like. But every smartphone cable is the same – a flimsy cord. That is, until now!

I use separate devices for different types of social media, too. It helps to keep the business and the personal things separate. But I end up with several phones buried under mounds of paper.

Since I plug my phones in to my computer to charge them when I’m at my desk, having a cable that allows my phone to be raised is brilliant! Now I’m seeing my notifications in real time. And I’m able to answer the phone (yes, I actually do talk on my phone!) and take care of business rather than play phone tag with clients.

Une Bobine Webinar StandAnd to be honest, my arms get tired holding up the phone for a video call. And my neck gets tired staring down at my phone if I’m reading emails, checking social media, or reading all the great articles people share all day. Image how much more comfortable it would be watch Orange is the New Black, or re-live Breaking Bad with the Une Bobine.

For about $30 (iPhone) or $20 (microUSB) the Une Bobine a 3-in-1 product that thousands of people saw as something we needed. If you use your smartphone for business, this smartphone cable, dock, and tripod would be a great way to improve your productivity. I think it would be great for calling, video chats, watching webinars, and keeping on top of social media.

What are your thoughts? How do you think you’d use this cool smartphone charger, dock, tripod innovation?

Disclosure: I was provided gratis product from the Fuse Chicken Company, owner of Une Bobine. All thoughts and opinions are mine, and may not reflect the views of any organizations listed. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this compensation, nor was this article reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


The MUST HAVE Mobile Accessory For Parents

 iRig Mic Cast Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary iRig Mic Cast after attending CES.

External Microphone

As someone who tech-drives a number of mobile devices and accessories, it’s always hard to pick “the one” or “must have”. When I was at CES I stopped by many booths and learned a lot about accessories that were originally off my radar. One such accessory was an external microphone from IK Multimedia called the iRig Mic Cast. Often marketed to those who podcast, do mobile interviews, or record lectures, I, a mom recording her kid’s performances, wasn’t their target. But they thought it would be interesting to let me try it out so they sent me one and told me to have at it.

I have to tell you, you NEED to buy an iRig Mic Cast if you plan on recording a performance your son or daughter has in the upcoming performance season. Truly a plug and play device (or more like plug and record), at $40 retail it’s a bargain. Small enough to carry in a pocket, the microphone plugs in to the stereo jack (the one for your headphones) on your mobile device and delivers amazing audio results.

Over the years I’ve recorded BabyGirl’s violin performances on different devices always hoping the sound quality will be worthy of her performance. But no matter if she’s accompanied by a piano or not I end up recording more of the coughing and throat clearing around me than her terrific performances. Didn’t matter if it was a traditional camcorder, a digital camera, or a mobile device. She’s there giving her all but the recording was never “good enough”.

So, while I was tech-driving the Droid Ultra, which I was given by Verizon, BabyGirl had a Phoenix Youth Symphony performance. Every spring, 5 of the ensembles perform together for the Teacher Appreciation Concert. This year, to celebrate the Olympic Winter Games they performed Summon the Heroes. It’s a mass ensemble of about 150 kids and it’s pretty impressive. Most of the kids are from 5th – 8th grade, but they play at a professional level.

In the audience, ten-plus rows back I pull out my little Droid Ultra with the iRig Mic Cast attached and hit record. The results were phenomenal, to say the least. Sure, the kids were the hit. But the difference this tiny accessory made was amazing. CycleGuy also recorded the performance with our standard camera but it couldn’t really compare. Our camera takes amazing photos, but when it comes to the audio portion of performances it falls short like most standard digital cameras. Like most parents, though, one always records on the mobile device because it makes for easier sharing. Only, the microphones are often in weird places and get covered up or end up recording everything else around us and not much of the audio we’re hoping to get.

With a musical performance, it really is all about the audio. A dance recital with poor audio might still be a dance recital but most people either mute or not watch. Neither are good options. I was amazed at the quality of the recording I got from the iRig Mic Cast. At less than 2″ x 2″ it was easy to carry with me and not bulky or obtrusive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious when it’s attached to the device. I had a number of people ask about it, but the proof was in the results.

Take a listen:

Now, tell me. Wasn’t that fantastic? Seriously, that was taken with my cell phone using the iRig Mic Cast external microphone. You’re thinking you need one of these, right? If you have Amazon Prime, you can have your own iRig Mic Cast in about 2 days! I’ve used it on iOS, Android, and Windows devices and the results have all been better than the phone alone or a separate digital camera. For under $40 (Amazon often has them for less!) you really can’t go wrong!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary product after attending CES. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. All thoughts and opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Nomad ChargeKey Review: Portable Charging Just Got Smaller


Disclosure: I received a complimentary ChargeKey after attending CES.

No matter where I go, I always carry a portable charger for the many mobile devices I, and my family, carry. I usually have at least two phones on me because I’m always testing out new devices as a Verizon Insider. My daughter doesn’t leave the house without her mobile device, for fear she may be stuck somewhere without reading material. Nomad ChargeKey Review

Heading to a conference, gathering, or event just amps up the need to never run out of power. All the apps running tax the battery. You’ve been there, I know you have. You look down at your phone and the battery is red or you get the pop-up you only have 20% battery life remaining.

So, if you’re like me, you grab the 3-foot cord and plug in to your mobile charger. That’s after you untangle it like you’re doing some kind of Houdini magic. And then you hope not to strangle yourself or trip over the same cord dangling.

That’s why having a ChargeKey from Nomad (retail: $29) is my new go-to “cable”. I use cable in quotes because it’s not really a cable in the traditional sense. About 2.5 inches long, the black, flexible charger has a USB at one end and either a Lightning (for iPhone 5/5c/5s) or mini-USB (most Android devices) at the other depending on which one you purchase. The cable is flexible but sturdy, and easily attaches to a key ring so you can have it with you at all times. For vehicles with USB ports, these are very handy and won’t junk up your car!



I like the compact size because it doesn’t take up much room, especially if I’m only carrying a small charger. It’s sleek, black and easily attached to your keys, which makes it easy to have both an iPhone and micro-USB compatible ChargeKey on you if you’re like me and have both types of devices. It’s definitely much more practical than a several foot charging cable. And much more discreet. Oh, and just an added bonus is all the people you’ll meet who will want to be your new BFF or propose marriage because you’ve just saved the day!

These make great gifts, and for kids who’ll be heading off to college or camp having something that won’t take up much space will be welcomed. And for busy parents who worry little hands will reach up and grab cables off a counter causing the device to tumble to the ground, this will save your sanity!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product after attending CES. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. All thoughts and opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Home Lighting Makeover

DIY Home Lighting Makeover

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary light bulbs to facilitate my home lighting makeover. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Like most people, years ago I switched out my incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent. CFLs as they’re better known, are more energy efficient. Energy efficiency is good for the wallet and the environment! But there was that one drawback we all had to get used to. Warm up.

Yes, we switched out our “instant on” incandescent bulbs to CFLs because we  knew that’s what we were supposed to do. But we had to now deal with waiting a few minutes before the light would actually glow enough so we can see what we’re doing. Tradeoffs, I guess.

Now, the newest thing are halogen and LED light bulbs. I don’t know about you, but my only knowledge of halogen light bulbs are those torch-ish floor lights we all bought back in the 80s and 90s because they were cheap. They also got so hot that they were found to be the culprit in a few house fires. So when GE Lighting asked if I’d consider a room makeover with their new halogen bulbs from the GE reveal® light bulbs I was hesitant. To me, halogen meant hot and risky. Boy was I surprised!

I changed out standard CFLs with a 75W equivalent with75W GE reveal halogen bulbs. Need to keep it similar! I tried them in a few rooms, but settled on the guest bathroom since I’m thinking of redoing it soon. Maybe all I’d really need are some cute accessories if I changed out the light bulbs? Could it really be that easy?

Yes, it really was that easy! Take a look at how lighting can change a room. Even with a guest bathroom lighting is important. The “instant on” with the halogen is pretty exciting after these last few years of CFLs. Also, gone is that yellowish glow. While this isn’t my main bathroom I want guests to see themselves in the best light (both figuratively and literally).

GE Lighting Makeover Before 3

Before: Natural light because I often don’t turn on the lights

GE Lighting Makeover Before 1

Before: Traditional CFL. Notice how one isn’t even on yet? Lovely yellow hue!

GE Lighting Makeover Before 2

Before: At least the lights are all the way on now. Still, not so flattering.

GE Lighting Makeover After 1

After: GE reveal Halogen bulbs. A much more natural glow.

I know lighting makes a difference, and you do too. But I never really thought it would make this much of a difference. But don’t just take it from me, see what other GE Tastemakers have to say about changing out their lighting for their professional uses.


Sometimes it’s not that you need to do a big makeover of your room, you just need to see it in the right light. While they do cost more than incandescent and the cheap CFLs we’re used to buying, the quality of lighting is definitely worth the few extra dollars to really enjoy the room you’re in or, like me, feel comfortable having guests use the powder room.

To find current promotions and updates, check out GE Lighting’s Facebook page. If you’re ready for your lighting makeover and want to save, here is a GE reveal® Coupon for $1 off any package of reveal® light bulbs. Good to print through December 31, 2013 with a 45 day expiration.

GE is proud to continue its long tradition of innovation a lighting and hopes you enjoy your new lighting experience with clean beautiful light of GE reveal® bulbs. For more information, please visit GE reveal®. To learn more about the Energy Independence & Security Act, visit GE Lighting’s website.

Disclosure: As I stated above, I have a business relationship with GE Lighting. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this relationship or compensation. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.



Even Kids Deserve Quality Stationery

Minted Cards

I’ve professed my love of office supplies. I’ve mentioned I’m a bit “old school” and enjoy mailing out cards to friends and family. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I’m that mother who has her daughter write out thank you notes. And it was easy to say yes when Minted asked if I’d like to share why I’m a fan of their site. I’ve been a customer of theirs for years, but full disclosure means you get to know I also have a working relationship with Minted and I am using affiliate links to their site.

Minted Kids Stationery

My love of pretty writing papers started very early. I remember my grandparents bringing back fancy paper from one of their overseas trips. All for me! And I would use it to write letters and thank you notes. Nice paper was actually my gateway to learning calligraphy. I wish I kept up that skill. Beautiful papers and cards together with fanciful writing brings such joy to people.

While she doesn’t know calligraphy, I’ve made it a point to get BabyGirl her own stationery. As a tween, I think it’s even more important for a young girl. And while technology does seem to control most of our communications, a beautiful card and handwritten words are still very meaningful.

I’ve found, over the years, that many of the best places to get stationery are online. One of my favorite places is Minted. It’s relatively young, having been founded in 2007. But I love the story behind the site and that the designers are men and women who are truly passionate about creating stationery designs people will not only love to send but also receive. The cards, stationery, and gifts aren’t just a collection of the same things you find everywhere.

Minted Kids Stationery ScallopsSure, there are traditional designs that stand the test of time. But there are also modern designs and papers that kids will love. I know, you’re thinking I’m nuts about this whole kids stationery. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I’m not totally sold on technology being our only means of communication. Sure, statistics will show that letter-writing isn’t what it used to be. But, I’m not putting the final nail in the coffin.

See, I love getting mail. So does Bubbe, and Grandpa Tommy, and my sister and, well, ask anyone and they’ll tell you how happy it makes them when they get a card in the mail. But writing a card isn’t easy. Which is why starting kids early is a good idea. And what better way than to get them their own personalized stationery.

So why Minted? For me, it’s the philosophy and community. These aren’t corporate-designs you’ll find everywhere. There’s that special something with these cards. BabyGirl loves writing on them, and she takes her time to pre-write and think about what she wants to say. These cards are important to her. She knows how much they mean to the people who get them.

Next time you’re looking for holiday cards, personalized stationer, or other writing papers check out Minted. The quality is top-notch and the customization really gives you that high-end look of truly custom stationery. And if you have kids, get them started early.

And don’t forget that grandparents love pretty calendars with photos of their kids because Minted has you covered with these too. I’ve purchased these calendars for several and BabyGirl loves helping to create them and they’re always a welcome gift, especially for those few people who are really hard to buy for.

So, be honest. Would your kids be more likely to write those thank you notes if they had nice stationery? Would it make your job easier?

Disclosure: As I stated above, I have a business relationship with Minted and the links to their website are affiliate links. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this relationship or compensation. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Movie Review: Frankenweenie, a Tim Burton Film

 Frankenweenie Movie Poster

So, let me start out by saying I’m not a fan of Tim Burton films. I didn’t like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride. They were a little too “out there” for me. So when I was invited to the Frankenweenie screening I almost passed up the opportunity. But BabyGirl and her BFF really wanted to see it, so we went. And I’m glad I did.

Frankenweenie is based on a story Tim Burton wrote about 30 years ago. The story is classic Tim Burton, but didn’t have the years of being jaded by Hollywood or filmmaking. Disney hit a home run with this film. Macabre and dark, what you’d expect from Tim Burton. But the family-friendly story and the love a little boy has for his dog keeps you connected to the story.

The premise of the movie is a takeoff of the traditional Frankenstein tale, without the adult themes. And a slight twist. Keeping with the black-and-white horror film genre he’s known for, Tim Burton created a visually exciting film despite it’s obvious lack of color palette. The labor-intensive stop-motion animation only added to the depth of the film. And you’re easily transported to 1970s New Holland despite not having the usual visuals in a live action film.

With Tim Burton at the helm you know you’re getting a modern horror flick. With voices by Hollywood veterans Martin Short (Edward Frankenstein, Mr. Bergemeister, Nassor, Dad, Bob), Catherine O’Hara (Victor’s Mom, Gym Teacher, Weird Girl) and Martin Landeau (Mr. Rzykruski) parents hear familiar voices. The young newcomers are excellent and give not only a voice but a personality to their characters.

Rendered in 3D, it’s not visually overwhelming. The end is really where much of the 3D effects add to the dimension of the film. Both BabyGirl and her BFF really liked the movie. This, despite the BFF having just experienced a pet death the day prior. On the way home I didn’t hear any talk of trying to recreate the film to bring back her cat, which is probably a good thing.

The movie is very tame, until the end when it’s more Godzilla-like than Frankenstein. There were some kids crying in the theater, but BabyGirl and her BFF (both 9 years old) thought the movie was awesome. The BFF is a fan of Tim Burton’s horror flicks so I expected her to like it. BabyGirl has never seen a Tim Burton film prior so with this as her first experience I know she’s willing to see more of his work.

The fact the movie was in black and white was lost on some in the audience. But for those of use who remember the original Frankenstein, or even grown up watching the Aadams Family, had the movie not been in black and white it would not have felt authentic.

I liked that the story was generally family-friendly, although I don’t know if it would be appropriate for younger children. There were a few around us at the screening and they really didn’t seem to understand a great deal of it. This film is perfect to get you in the Halloween spirit.

Frankenweenie is rated PG due to some thematic elements, scary images, and some action scenes. I agree with this given that the younger kids at the screening didn’t seem to enjoy it as much.

Official Promotional Details

From creative genius Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” The Nightmare Before Christmas”) comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.

A stop-motion animated film, “Frankenweenie” was filmed in black and white and rendered in 3D. The talented voice cast includes: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell and Winona Ryder. 

Presented by Disney, “Frankenweenie” is directed by Tim Burton, produced by Tim Burton and Allison Abbate, from a screenplay by John August, based on an original idea by Tim Burton. “Frankenweenie” releases in U.S. theaters on October 5, 2012.

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening and did not pay to see the movie. I was not required to write about the movie as a condition of the invitation. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Review: Disney’s BRAVE

Disney Movie Brave

Disney/Pixar pushed the limits on technology to make BRAVE. The story of a Scottish princess uses technology that animators wished existed years ago when making other familiar films. This time, though, they had what they dreamed of and really challenged themselves not only to make the most of the technology they had but also to take the audience along on this adventure in the Scottish Highlands.

Queen Elinor is voiced by Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who does a phenomenal job of giving life to an animated character. You hear the emotions in the voice which matches the animation, so much so that there were times I forgot all of the visuals were tech-created. King Fergus is also so well done you may think actor, musician, comedian Billy Connolly really is acting the part. Kelly Macdonald gives princess Merida her soul and you’re drawn in to her as a young girl rather than, like prior Pixar films, a computer generated character.

The scenery is beautiful and very authentic. It’s easy to believe the characters are real and living in medieval times. The cast of characters we see bring laughter and comic relief at just the right times.

The story, though, is where I had some challenges. From the initial press, BRAVE seemed to be a story about a young girl bucking traditions to establish a new path for her life rather than accepting tradition. I knew that the princess wasn’t going to do exactly what a princess was supposed to do. The title is, afterall, BRAVE. I thought Merida was going to be more Mulan than Ariel or Belle or Snow White.

It’s one thing to take control of your destiny, it’s something completely different to be part of a corporate formula of what little girls should learn about a being a princess. Princess Merida wasn’t born into royalty. It stems naturally then that she’s going to be different. In many ways she’s no different than other young girls when it come to pushing boundaries with what your mom tells you. And while it’s a challenge to learn all the princessy-stuff, Merida does her best while wrestling with her inner country commoner who was taught to be independent at a young age.

As a princess, though, Merida doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her mother. In a fit she storms off and this is where I was less than pleased with the storyline. It’s formula. Sure it took its cue from the legend Queen Elinor was teaching to Merida. The story had Merida living out the gist of the legend. Although, it did throw in a witch (which, oddly, looked very much like the witch from the Snow White’s Scary Adventure ride) the story really didn’t need if they’d put a little more thought and creativity to making the legend more an integral part of the film.

At the end, of course, everything turns out OK and all is well in the Kingdom once again. It’s not without suspense and the edge-of-your-seat hoping that everything turns out OK and Merida and her mom are, once again, happily together. Was it a good movie, absolutely. Were there parts I was disappointed with, yes to that one too.

The big measure of success was what BabyGirl and her BFF thought of the movie. Two 9 year old girls loved the movie. They both thought the story was OK and they were sad that Merida and her mom got into a fight. While they knew it was just a movie, it impressed upon them that it’s OK to be mad at your mom but you shouldn’t wish anything bad to happen to her because maybe it will and that part made them sad. Overall though, they were so excited to have seen it (in 3D, too!) and see a strong girl as the main character, as well as the love among the family. They also liked that there were very funny parts too.

Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and produced by Katherine Sarafian, BRAVE opens in theaters across the US on June 22, 2012, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening and did not pay to see the movie. I was not required to write about the movie as a condition of the invitation. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar


DreamWorks Studio War Horse Movie Review

War Horse Movie

Opening Christmas Day, this DreamWorks Studio film brings to the big screen a story based on the children’s novel of the same name, War Horse. Since it was a story originally written for children, there was some liberty taken to create a vivid and visually stimulating film that would transport you back to World War I Europe. Directed by Steven Spielberg, you can expect a seamless transition from the opening to the very end.

Despite not having the money to buy the thoroughbred, Albert’s father’s pride overtakes him and he commits to buying a horse that is not intended to do farm work. Joey, as the horse is named, becomes Albert’s best friend and does for him chores and tasks a horse of his caliber never should. Joey and Albert work together to save the family farm, only to be sold to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) as the war begins to mount. Distraught, Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) tried to join the military but is too young.

The story follows the horse from owner to owner, and through it, Albert becomes woven in as he joins the military effort. Nominated for two Golden Globes, War Horse features a grand view that is often associated with Spielberg films of this caliber. It is an episodic production that takes you from pre-war Britain through epic battles, grissly scenes of war and destruction, personal determination and love for a horse that somehow connects with every owner, to an ending that you hope for as the movie progresses.

It’s a very intense movie, as one would expect from a war-focused film. But just as intense as the war scenes, the interaction that each person has with Joey (played by 15 horses from foal to adulthood) is lovingly developed. As a representative of the over 8 million horses that lost their lives in World War I, Joey shows how much the war relied on the efforts of these amazing animals. Furthermore, it demonstrates that although they were often used to the point of breaking, the equine faction of the militaries were critical for more than just power. While most don’t befriend their war horse, there are those special bonds that do develop that allow the ordinary to do the extraordinary.

While it is historical fiction, we get a very good understanding of the various relationships that existed during the war as well and a glimpse at life in pre-war Europe.The cinematography is extraordinary and the entire cast transports you back to a time and place few of us would ever want to know. For adults who grew up hearing stories of World War I from their grandfathers, this movie will solidify those memories. For those of us who did not, the simplistic nature of the story sufficiently creates a narrative for a war we’ll never fully understand.

This isn’t as much a story about war as it is about courage and dedication. With a star-studded cast, and a few newcomers, War Horse is definitely an award-worthy film.  The main character doesn’t speak, but his story is beautifully told. Since the story was originally penned for children, it’s more a story about the powerful human bond with nature and the dedication to caring for each other that is basic to humanity. Set in a war, the story takes on multiple dimensions but never strays far from the theme of courageous action.

Definitely not for young children, War Horse is rated PG-13. While not overly violent or gory as compared to some movies, discretion is recommended. The mostly male cast allows for the few female roles to shine and both Emily Watson (Rosie Narracott) and Celine Buckens (Emilie) are wonderful and reel you further in to the theme.

War Horse Movie Trailer

Directed by Steven Spielberg; written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo; and produced by longtime partners Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy. The movie is released by DreamWorks Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Run time: 2 hours 26 minutes.

Opens December 25, 2011

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening and did not pay to see the movie. I was not required to write about the movie as a condition of the invitation. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.