Movie Poster: The Misfits

 The Misfits movie poster

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Movie Trailer: What's Your Number

I suppose the title I'm Too Old to Keeping Skanking Around So I Want to Get Married would be too on-the-nose.

I would normally cast this aside without another thought, but I have a soft spot for Anna Faris.  She has great delivery and IMO, a solid script from being a household name.

If she keeps making fluffy stuff like this however, she will remain at the "you'll know her when you see her" level.

Movie Trailer: Cars 2

My initial reactions to the teaser trailer were a bit off.  The Cars as spies routine was pushed harder in the teaser and I was worried a disaster was in the works.  This trailer plays down the spy plot, which makes me hopeful this won't be painful.

The World Gran Prix and the spy plot together is still not a good sign.  There are two distinct narrative forks put together - this still has the makings of a convoluted story.

I am also skeptical of focusing just on Lightening and Mater.  While the pair are the key to the franchise, the small town characters and juxtapositions found in the original film are what made the story and humor work so well.

Guest Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

Reviewer: Willing Participant

Hangover Part 2 movie review***Thanks to Willing Participant for offering his thoughts on this new release.***

Director: Todd Phillips
Written by: Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms

Should I see it?

As a guest reviewer, I like to provide a different perspective of movies from time to time. So often, just one guy's opinion can be biased against a certain actor, genre or style. This is not one of those times. I have volunteered my services for The Hangover Part II, so no more money had to be wasted supporting the idea of creating The Hangover Part III.

This movie is essentially The Beatles White Album of film: not enough good stuff for one album, let alone the ill-conceived idea of turning it into two. The story is essentially a scene-by-scene re-make of the first film, The Hangover, but in a different setting. Instead of Vegas, the three characters find themselves in Bangkok, piecing together their actions from the previous 24 hours of amoral debauchery to find a missing buddy. Early into the movie it becomes obvious that what the screenwriters lacked in creativity and humor they planned on making up in shock, such as multiple full-frontal male nudity scenes.

With the idea that the setting of this site is viewing films through a Christian lens, suffice to say that The Hangover Part II could have been a docu-drama on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Click on Mr. I'm Barely in the Movies to view the trailer
Hangover Part 2 movie trailer

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Bradley Cooper movies
The Hangover (2009)

Movie Trailer: Larry Crowne

Notice the titlecards are the same color scheme and font as Forrest Gump - accidental?  I doubt it.  It is a way to link the presence of Hanks back to that still popular performance.

I fail to see the selling point with this trailer.  We have Hanks portraying a bumbling guy who fancies a snotty teacher.  Okay.  And...?

Generally, I trust Hanks' taste in projects, but the lack of a hook in this trailer gives me pause.


Movie Poster: Mexican Hayride

 Mexican Hayride movie poster

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Movie Trailer: Rashomon

One of the great films of world cinema.  If you haven't seen this, it is worth stopping what you're doing and renting it today.  Even if you don't like subtitles, chances are you will still be enthralled.


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Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Kung Fu Panda 2 movie reviewShould I see it?

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Written by: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michelle Yeoh

Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence

Rent or Buy This Movie Hererent Kung Fu Panda

Sequels can be difficult things. Generally, the original film is a stand-alone production that resolves itself. Additional episodes have not only to survive the comparison to a successful first film, but they also must remold the characters into a new narrative which both relates to the original while also staking new ground to avoid be a cheap rehash.

Kung Fu Panda was a smart, beautifully designed family movie. It was also tightly structured and offered little direction for a sequel. Po (Jack Black), the titular panda, had become the Dragon Warrior and vanquished the menacing Tai Lung (Ian McShane). Instead of devising a new threat out of whole cloth, screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger smartly delved into Po's past, exploring his origin story.

Po has become equals with the Furious Five. He is still bumbling, gluttonous and given to grand proclamations on how awesome he can be. Despite these flaws, he has grown in his skills. While battling bandits in a local village, Po has a vision of his infancy. Confused, he brings his trouble to his father Mr. Ping (a swan goose). Mr. Ping admits to Po that he is indeed adopted, which comes as a shock to the dim-witted panda. Po was left on Ping's doorstep after his parent's village was destroyed by the evil Lord Shen. Shen has harnessed the power of gunpowder and cannoning .

Shen has returned to the region and threatens to take over all of China with his power weapons. Po and the Furious Five move to confront Shen. Po also hopes to learn more of his past and the fate of his parents.

This film is as well-written as the first. Black is given plenty of material to work with and makes Po one of the more likeable animated characters in recent years. As I mentioned in my review of the original film, I am no fan of Jack Black. In this role however, he is undeniably perfectly cast and should get most of the credit for the film's charm.

The design of the animation is also notable. The original film included a number of different animation styles woven into the story. This time around the design is even more elaborate and inventive. If the story had not worked, this would still be worth considering just for the visual creativity on the screen.

I generally will watch films like this in a full theater full of parents and children. Normally, I despise watching films in public with kids because of the noise, smells and disruptions. With something like this however, I find it instructive to gauge the film's reception. After all, I'm not a kid, so it is a little hard for me to speak on their behalf. The kids appeared to have loved it. I know my children were riveted by the action sequences and loved the humor. Another element I watch for is the laughter. If just the kids laugh, the humor is probably simple stuff. When parents and children laugh together, as they were doing during my viewing, you know you have genuine, well-written humor on the screen.

If you and/or your children enjoyed Kung Fu Panda you will like this follow up. I recommend it highly.

Worldview: Christian parents may be hesitant about letting their children watch this film. There are elements that are legitimate concerns. Since this film takes place in ancient China, Eastern philosophy is everywhere. Concepts such as yin yang are present.

There is also the element of divination through a prophesying soothsayer warning Lord Shen that a black and white warrior would one day defeat him. This warrior is Po and a couple of times Po's black and white body is transformed into a yin yang symbol. This essentially represents yin yang beating the evil.

You will need to decide for yourself if you would want your children to be introduced to these ideas in this venue. Personally, I argue that such an introduction is perfect. Your children will undoubtedly be entertained by the film. Many of these references will fly right past them without their knowledge. Following the film a Christian parent should instruct their child on what they saw and what was presented in the film. The best way to confront ideas is to talk about them, even when they're delivered by a cartoon panda.

Kung Fu Panda II movie trailer

Here is a comment from site friend K..  He doesn't agree with me.:

I felt the movie had a bad case of "Hollywood Sequelitis". The writers analyzed the first film, found the 5-10 most popular aspects and wrote some story that incorporated them - only longer,harder with more spectacle.

  • Kung fu fighting scenes/action - check
  • Po character development - check
  • Shallow eastern religious slant- check
  • "Slacker" and "fat" humor - check

Unfortunately, this ends up as a poorly integrated stew - which while keeping kids in their seats and an entertaining 90 minutes - is nowhere near as good as the original. The action scenes were too long and too complex to enjoy as much as the last one - the "spiritual development" felt contrived and the "slacker" humor didn't mix well with Po's supposed new competence as a fighter. And the supporting characters - who were pretty well developed in the earlier film and developed further on a special short on the DVD - were lost in the background.

Finally, and the biggest flaw, I think, is the villain. Unlike the original, the bad guy in this piece is an uncertain wimp, a weak fighter and "humanized",which turns the conflict and tension in the story from "boil" to "simmer".

I agree it's a movie you can recommend - but it's a disappointment to anyone who's a fan of the original.

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Movie Poster: Winchester '73

 Winchester 73 movie poster

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Movie Trailer: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

I still think the team who put together the striking movie trailer for Battle: Los Angeles should be able to sue over stealing their approach.

This seems just like the other Transformers movies except the audience has the experience of the first two movies to warn them to ignore this outing.

Screen Shot: Tree of Life


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You Are What You See:
Watching Movies Through a Christian Lens

Incestual Undertones in Star Wars

Movie Trailer: Horrible Bosses

I like the reaction to slugging down scotch and Colin Farrell's comb over.

I don't like that they overplay their hand with the plot.  They want to kill their bosses, really?  Wouldn't it have been just as easy to have them conspire to get their bosses fired?  They would have had the same launching pad for situational comedy without the unnecessary grim undertones.  Generally, films that joke about plotting to kill people don't do well. 

Movie Quote: Is Anybody There? (2008)

I'd like to come back as a badger. 


They're bad-tempered, but they look good - and you can make sporrans out of badgers.

How to Negotiate

By Wayne Johnson

In the world of film making there is a lot of situations where you need to negotiate. You could be trying to get a specific actor for your project, you could be haggling for your locations or on a rental price for equipment. Every single interaction is a negotiation.

I have had the privilege to be working with two extremely experienced Producers.

Dan De Filippo Manager, film and television producer at Pipeline Talent. And Jay Weisman, writer, director and producer. Both of these guys have years of experience working on projects of various sizes and complexities.

So I was lucky enough to be able to ask these guys some questions about negotiations. I hope you gain as much wisdom from the answers as I did.

Dan, when starting a negotiation do you have any predetermined criteria that you follow?

We first familiarize our selves with the project thoroughly. If it's a movie we read the script, asses what talent attachments are in place, vet the producing team, do research on the production company judge the reality of the budget and if the budget is realistic for the project then we present it to clients who are appropriate for all things considered.

How do you keep the negotiation about the problem and not about the people?

Negotiation is about the problem, in a sense. The problem being approached in a "how do we fix the problem." We pride ourselves in being able to find creative solutions as collaborators with all of the production companies, producers, studios, that we do business with. So that in a sense it's never about people its about problem solving.

Can you give an example of how you leverage power in an negotiation?

One thing that people forget while negotiating in that, yes-both sides are trying to get the best deal for their interests. The power is in approaching your position in a positive and helpful way. Being part of the team -not an outside entity trying to milk dollars and cents that could ultimately be a detriment to the common goal. In a sense, the power is in understanding the full scope of a project in it's entirety -not the immediate gratification. This comes by being diligent as referenced in the first question above.

How do you try to arrange a negotiation so that both parties reach mutual benefit?

You try to analyze all considerations and come up with a compromise that makes sense.

What do you do when you encounter a dirty trick or tactic?

We tend to make sure there is no room for dirty tricks or tactics. We accomplish this through vetting who we are doing business with and doing the diligence mentioned above. also, once the deal has been made, we paper said deal with specific controls to make sure there is legal recourse if either party does not live up to what was agreed upon.

Jay, when starting a negotiation do you have any predetermined criteria that you follow?

It depends on the negotiation. As there are always different dynamics at play in every negotiation, I usually weigh several options:
  1. Budget - what's the range of what I have to spend
  2. Relationship - what's the relationship that I want to have with the negotiating entity. This will have baring on how I handle budget.
  3. Task - What is the task at hand and how it plays in to Budget and Relationship
  4. Plan B - what's my backup plan in case this negotiation fails.

Usually I weigh all these things before going in. There might be other considerations such as corporate interests, perceptions in the marketplace and my own internal political relationships within the company that I think need to be balanced.

How do you keep the negotiation about the problem and not about the people?

Humor. If I feel like the negotiation is steering toward an unproductive path, I usually make a joke to lighten things and try to veer the conversation back on topic. The need to stay focused on point is something that I always need to keep in the back of my mind. It also helps to focus on the discrete tasks and milestones rather than personnel - or personalities. I also try and be very discrete and to the point when it comes to money - which needs to be handled in a very direct, respectful manner.

Can you give an example of how you leverage power in an negotiation?

I think the ultimate power in a negotiation is the ability to walk away from it. And I find that's always more about what's not said then what's said in a particular negotiation, so you look at things like inflection and body language. Also this kind of power is also is dependent on having a plan B - so it's imperative to really asses the upside and the downside of walking away. At any point, you also have to assess what the other party is thinking or doing in relation to this. Again, it's subtle, but eye contact, body language and rate of speech, etc. If I feel that the power shift is turning the other way, I try and steer the conversation toward my assets and begin to try and become more assertive.

How do you try to arrange a negotiation so that both parties reach mutual benefit?

Be as up front as to where I'm coming from, what I can and can't do. Set boundaries. Be fair and honest (without giving too much away). Know my limitations, but also allow for wiggle room. Try to keep it casual as best you can. Manage the truth, but don't be deceitful.

What do you do when you encounter a dirty trick or tactic?

It depends on who I'm dealing with. Sometimes I call attention to it, other times I file it away for use later - our outside the negotiation for some other reason. It really depends on the situation. If I want the negotiation to move forward, I'll either make a joke about it to lighten the mood, but also to throw the person I'm dealing with off-balance. Again, I find humor can diffuse a situation. You want to make them know that you caught them, but aren't phased by it. And that's the best way to deal with a situation like that. Make a note - let the person you're negotiating know it - and then use it to get the upper hand.

Wayne's commentaries can also be found on his site New Discourses On Art.

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You Are What You See:
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Movie Poster: Barton Fink

Barton Fink movie poster

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Movie Trailer: The Adventures of Tintin

I've been looking forward to seeing the design for this release.  It appears they've decided to go with the same ol' dead, soulless eyes look that Robert Zemeckis seems so partial to (The Polar Express, Beowulf).  That does not bode well.  The animation is inferior to what Pixar routinely produces and it shows.  Pixar can make talking cars seem realistic but this crew can't seem to give life to a cartoon boy.

Perhaps my judgments are overstated given the brief views of people in the trailer.  Pay attention to the eyes and choppy movements.  It sure doesn't look promising.

Here's to hoping I'm wrong.

A Movie You Might Have Missed: Los cronocrímenes "Timecrimes" (2007)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

PhotobucketDirector: Nacho Vigalondo
Written by:
Nacho Vigalondo
Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández and Bárbara Goenaga

Anyone who loves time travel movies will absolutely love this film.

Most films dealing with time travel hint at the complications that will logically occur. Back to the Future plays with the cause and effect results of actions of the time traveler, while Primer copes with the more personal complications. This film by Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo dives right into the meaty elements of time travel. Vigalondo sets his main character Héctor (Karra Elejalde) into a web of intersecting timelines and an escalating parade of motivations from various parties all of which just happen to be the same man.  What is driving Héctor right now, is different than what is concerning Héctor from the past as he digs himself into a deeper and deeper chronological hole. What Vigalondo manages here is a very complicated string of events that he handles in a calm, understandable way.  This gives his audience a fun and thought provoking film.

If you have ever watched a time travel film and wanted it to get more involved in the logical twists, this is a perfect film for you. While Vigalondo is forced to push some choices that don’t pass the smell test in order to keep his plot moving, overall this is one of the more enjoyable films I’ve seen in a long time.

Cautions: There is full female nudity and mild violence - all of which is contextual.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stangers Tides Movie PosterShould I see it?
Absolutely not.

Short Review: Cinematic backwash. 

Director: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Kevin McNally

Rated PG-13 for sexual content/nudity, language and some violence

Rent or Buy This Movie Here

Do you remember how you so loved the first film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl? Then the follow up Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest came out and wasn't as good.  It was darker, campier and less structured.  The series came to an end with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.  Perhaps you liked it, I didn't, but still you have to admit that it didn't seem like it was made in the same universe as the first outing.  Everything was even darker, grittier and the action sequences were downright cartoonish.  On top of that, the plot seemed incomplete and hurriedly assembled.

This film makes the first two sequels seem masterful.

Johnny Depp Captain Jack Sparrow

This sequel, penned by original screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, only retains fragments of the original set of films.  It, of course, retains the franchise title.  It also revives three characters: Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).  The mismanaged plot points from the original series have been cast aside, being messily resolved in the last film.  This is a clean slate for the franchise and could have been a launching pad to reintroduce the series with a fresh and inviting storyline.  One look at this film and it becomes obvious they didn't show up to tell a story but rather squeeze some final drips from their cash cow.

Instead of taking the time to meticulously build a memorable plot with strongly designed characters all fueled by simple but compelling motivations, the Pirates crew has delivered one of the most confusing, half-baked sequels in memory.  This film isn't just disappointingly bad, it is now a textbook example of how to wreck a franchise.  I do not see how it possibly lays the foundation for any additional movies.  Given that the original series is resolved, if this production is standalone.  Since it can't logically establish any additional films this makes this production wholly unnecessary beyond the simple goal of making some more bucks off the desperate hopes of the audience being entertained.

Johnny Depp and Geoffrey RushJack pops up in London to spare his crew mate Gibbs from the gallows.  Jack gets arrested and is ordered to lead a vessel to the Fountain of Youth.  The Spanish have already left for the supernatural wonder and the English want to get their first.  Of course, Jack's nemesis/partner Barbossa has joined the English navy and will be leading the expedition.  Barbossa now sports a peg leg, having lost his limb in the same battle he lost the Black Pearl to the infamous Blackbeard.

Before leaving London Jack learns someone is posing as him and assembling a crew.  Jack investigates and discovers Angelica (Penélope Cruz) a former resident of a convent he had led astray.  Angelica - Angelic - she's a fallen angel - is putting a crew together to hunt for the Fountain of Youth.  Jack is shanghaied and finds himself on the ship captained by Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Blackbeard is searching the Fountain of Youth because one of his zombie crew members has prophesied that he would be killed by a man with one leg - Barbossa.

Sam Claflin and Astrid Bergès-FrisbeyTied to the mast of Blackbeard's ship is a handsome clergyman (Sam Claflin).  He doesn't do too much except introduce some theological arguments that are quickly discarded in favor of...well, not much.  The crew eventually runs into some mermaids.  They have to capture one because they need a tear from a mermaid in order to get the fountain to work.  The mermaid they ensnare, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) falls in love with the clergyman and the two pair up.  No one questions the very real issue of inter-species dating.

As you can tell, the plot is rather flaky and disheveled. 

Where this film goes wrong is in its lack of structure and character motivation.  If one looks at one of the best screenplays ever written, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (IMO), they will see a strongly structured tale with well drawn characters all moved by individual goals that conflict.  The curse at the center of the plot is explained in a straight-forward fashion and confirmed by rules that follow simple logic.  In this film logic doesn't play a role.  We are introduced to rules and motivations that make little to no sense and are not even explained.  This can be seen with every single aspect of the Fountain of Youth.

The Fountain of Youth is set up as the central goal of all of the characters early on.  Their specific desires for the Fountain are easily explained, everyone wants to live forever.  The British King demands Sparrow lead an expedition to the Fountain with Barbossa.  He claims the Spanish have already set sail for it and he wants to beat them.  Why?  Because the Spanish are filthy dogs.  That's why.  How did the Spanish come to know the whereabouts of the Fountain?  Not entirely clear.  What do they want with it?  Not explained.

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides mermaidIn order to get the Fountain to work our heroes, if I can be allowed to call them that, need to get a tear from a mermaid, drop it in one of two special silver cups along with water from the Fountain itself.  One person drinks from the tear-lined cup while another sips from the one with just the water.  This moves the years of life from one person to the next.  Why?  Dunno.  How?  Meh, you ask too many questions.  What does this have to do with mermaids?  Nothing, except we get to include wet, half-naked models in the marketing.  Why those two silver cups?  Because they have specific words etched on them.  Why is this critical?  Couldn't say, it was lost in all the mumbo jumbo dialog.  Say, who made the Fountain?  Who cares, let's watch Johnny Depp do an impression of his previous performances.

The lack of explanation that surrounds the Fountain curses the entire screenplay.  Blackbeard is able to control his boat with his sword, which is apparently magical.  How?  Never explained.  He is able to encase the ships he defeats in bottles.  How?  They forget to mention.  Better yet, why?  Apparently, it's not important.  This goes on and on in nearly every aspect of the film.  The audience is issued actions, rules and motivations without the courtesy of a logical explanation (internally logical to the storyline).  Things are the way they are because they are the way they are.  This is the exact wrong way to go about telling a memorable story.

The production itself is literally very dark.  Often the action is muddled by shadows and poor lighting.  There is a scene which takes place outside during the day.  The bright blue sky is striking for a moment because it's the first time in the first hour where full sunlight is seen.  It is as if someone quickly turned on the lights.

The characters have become more despicable and self-interested.  Rossio and Elliot have removed Will and Elizabeth from the storyline.  The problem is that the couple served as a moral anchor for the films.  They contrasted the chaotic morality of Sparrow.  Their exit means the evil in the hearts of the pirates is the only meaningful morality on screen.  Sure, there is the clergyman, but he is an ineffectual whiner who discards his faith at the precise moment he should be clinging to it.  Ultimately, this is a poorly made movie about bad men fighting and killing to serve their own selfish goals.

Save your money.  The real greedy pirates here are the folks behind the camera.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Trailer

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews
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