The Choice Movie Review

The Choice

My wife picked Nicholas Spark’s latest movie adaption, The Choice, for us to see. She’d heard it was like the new Notebook which we both liked.

The Choice can best be described as two movies glued together. Let’s dive into it!

Travis, played by Ted Cruz lookalike Benjamin Walker, is a womanizing veterinarian who has a semi-steady girlfriend.

Gabby, played by Teresa “looks like a heroin addict” Palmer, is training to be a doctor and is dating one of her superiors at the hospital, Ryan.

Gabby moves next to Travis and they soon realize they are a terrible fit for each other and that Gabby will never sleep with Travis.

Of course Travis can’t have that! He slowly seduces her. They break up and get together. Yadah yadah, typical romance movie stuff.

Now normally the movie would end there, with the happy couple’s wedding.

The Choice is no ordinary movie though!

Fast forward seven years and Gabby is in a coma due to a car accident.

The movie does not spring this on you suddenly. The first scene was actually Travis entering the hospital with flowers and everything else was a flashback.

Travis has to make the titular Choice, keep Gabby alive in the hope that she will return to him and their two children or remove life support?

I won’t spoil his choice or the results/consequences. The end had many tear jerking moments and that’s all you need to know.

The second part of the movie is great and I’d definitely recommend it. As for the first part…

The first half of the movie suffered from the disease of “all these characters are jerks.”

Everyone had some sort of adolescent sexist agenda. Travis is a lady killer. Gabby distrusts all men. Travis’s sister thinks that because Travis and Gabby are opposites that they will obviously get together.

The minor characters get included in the sexist mess as well. Travis’s friends wives say, “Men have more fun if they feel like they’re getting away with something.”

Additionally, the characters have zero problems in their lives except what I already outlined.

As another review I read states, “in the Nicholas Sparks universe, everyone is beautiful and successful.”

While this let’s the audience focus on the plot it did seem odd to me. For example, Travis encounters no racism when he hangs out with his black friends in Carolina. The Confederate flag is also mysteriously absent from landscape shots of the harbor.

I think that would’ve made an interesting sideplot but I understand why it wasn’t included. The movie is about Travis and Gabby, not Travis and his friends. There might’ve even been a conscious choice to leave our racism with the notion that if racism is absent in media then it could eventually vanish in real life.

Regardless of intentions, all these elements disrupted my suspension of disbelief during the film. I kept thinking, “That doesn’t make sense, why isn’t that there?” or “Oh God, another sexist/patronizing speech.”

Adding to that, Walker looks 40 years old in The Choice while Palmer looks 20. This isn’t accidental. The characters they play are actually 10-15 years apart in age. It adds this whole other creepy element of cradle robbing to the film.

Despite all that I’d still recommend the film for its stellar second half. My gripes disappear there and I can wholeheartedly recommend the movie for a Valentine’s Day date with your significant other.

-GoCorral

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Cinderella Movie Review

I saw Disney’s new live-action Cinderella movie with my wife and we weren’t very impressed.

We went into it with high expectations. Everyone had told us it was good and a nice romance movie that we both would like to see.

First disappointment was that it wasn’t a musical with talking mice like the animated version.

The mice are still there, hungry and oppressed by the cat, but they don’t talk. The notes of the songs are still used in the movie’s score, but the movie is definitely not a musical with talking animals.

Next problem for me specifically was Cinderella’s beauty. I had the same problem in the new Snow White movie with Kristen Stewart. In both cases the story tells of the characters unsurpassing beauty. Its even an important plot point in the Snow White story. And then the movie fails to deliver. In both cases the villainous women are more attractive than the heroine.

This fact is possibly a conscious decision in Cinderella. She is far more kind and generous than her step-relatives and perhaps making the villains more outwardly beautiful than her was done to counterplay Cinderella’s inner beauty.

The story doesn’t stray far from the known narrative. The romance between Cinderella and the Prince seems genuine. They love each other because they both judge each other’s worth based on their personalities instead of their rank in society.

Their romance did seem a little tame compared to other romances though. I’m used to movies where true love is expressed by the characters jumping each others’ bones instead of holding hands and dancing.

Not that Disney did anything wrong by keeping the passion to a low level. The movie is intended for children and the historical setting imposes its own limitations on how far the lovers can go physically without being sinful.

The removal of the songs and the lack of adult romance didn’t ruin the movie, but it certainly doesn’t compare well to other Cinderella movies like Ella Enchanted or A Cinderella Story. If you’re in the mood for a sappy Cinderella romance I would suggest those over Disney’s live action Cinderella.

GoCorral

Paddington Movie Review

I saw the movie Paddington with my wife last weekend.

The movie is based off the Paddington Bear book series. I read a few of the books when I was a kid but remember almost nothing about them.

What I do remember is the visual appearance of Paddington and his unflagging politeness. I remember the books being similar to Stuart Little, but British instead of American. I also remember Paddington being a teddy bear in the books, but that’s wrong. He’s an unusual bear species from “darkest Peru.”

The movie starts off with old black and white news reel describing Paddington’s home in Peru. Soon Paddington must leave his home and travel to London where he plans to be adopted by waiting at a railroad station.

Our little hero stows away in a lifeboat aboard a cargo ship headed to London. He survives by bringing along an enormous supply of orange marmalade which we are a told “has all the daily vitamins and minerals a bear needs.”

Paddington meets the Brown family at the Paddington station in London. He goes to live with them until they can find the explorer who previously visited his family in “darkest Peru.” It’s no surprise that by the end of the movie Paddington has become part of the Brown’s family.

I wouldn’t want to give more away about the movie, but it struck me as extremely British.  There’s a flashback where the explorer is describing how civilized the bears in “darkest Peru” are. The people he’s talking to respond by saying, “Civilized? Surely they don’t play cricket?” I’m paraphrasing, but that is what the movie is like.

The movie is a fun family experience. Although I’ve read some of the Paddington books, I can’t say if a true fan of the books would enjoy the movie or not. I can say that if you liked Stuart Little then you will like Paddington. A talking animal is accepted into a classical nuclear family in both books/movies. What more do you really need to know? Just that description tells you what the movie will be about. It has a few jokes, but is mostly about the warm fuzzy feelings you get from the tender moments in the movie. And having something you can watch with children.

That’s all for today!

-Mister Ed

Town of Salem

Main Screen

One of my friends showed me a new game this weekend called Town of Salem.

Town of Salem is a Flash game produced by Blank Media Games that you play in your web browser. The company recently finished a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund mobile versions of the game, an independent PC client, and translations to play the game in other languages. The Kickstarter just finished so those projects are all still in the works.

The game is a more fleshed out version of the party game, Mafia.

For those of you who haven’t played Mafia, it’s pretty simple. All the players sit in a circle and are secretly assigned roles.

The game is effectively split into two teams, the Mafia and the Townies.

The Mafia want to take over the town by killing everyone and the Townies want to live, which means hanging the Mafia members after a swift trial.

There are fewer Mafia than Townies, but the Townies don’t know who the Mafia are.

The game is played in a series of days and nights. The party game simulates night by having everyone close their eyes and put their heads down.

At night the Mafia wake up and silently decide who to kill that night by pointing at people and gesturing wildly. In Town of Salem they can still talk by typing to each other secretly.

In the morning that person is dead and the Townies can vote to hang someone for the murder.

There are a few other roles that occasionally get included in the party game. The Doctor can heal someone each night and prevent the Mafia from killing them. The Sheriff can investigate someone and find out if they’re Mafia or not. Other stuff like that.

Town of Salem gives a special role to everyone. There are Mayors, Lookouts, Escorts, Mediums, Framers, Jesters, Executioners, Jailors. Tons of roles! There’s so many that a wiki page was created to keep track of them.

Town of Salem takes all the intrigue and guess work of Mafia and turns it into an easy to pick up internet game.

Each game has fifteen players. There are a couple different modes, but the classic mode has 3 Mafia members, 3 Neutral people who have their own agenda outside of killing all the Townies or all the Mafia, and 9 Townies that want to eliminate all the evil people like the Mafia or the Serial Killer role.

The game is just like the party game. People die each night and the Townies try to figure out who did it while the Mafia spread misinformation among the townsfolk.

Its a lot of fun and super quick to play as well. You can try it out at Blank Media Games if you’re interested. I’ve also posted a Youtube clip of one of my games with my friends for your viewing pleasure.

-Mister Ed

The Giver Movie Review

The Giver Movie Poster

My wife and I went on a date last weekend to see The Giver and we both really liked the movie.

It was a faithful adaption of the book and I felt it was a good movie on its own as well.

There are a few additions to the movie and a few things removed as well. Of course this sort of thing always happens in movie adaptions of books.

For example, Two scenes that I really enjoyed were not present in the movie, Jonas tossing an apple and seeing it turn red in the air, and a more direct explanation of precise language that Jonas receives from his parents.

In the book, Jonas says he is starving. His parents correct him and say that he is only hungry, not starving.

The movie skips that scene, but contains plenty of other pieces of dialogue that illustrate the precise use of language the people have developed in The Giver‘s utopia.

My wife was disappointed that the movie did not include the variety of gifts the children receive for each year of advancement. Only the bike at year nine is in the movie.

The special effects and acting in the movie were excellent. I loved that it switched back and forth between black and white and color. Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep were amazing as always and the young actors put forward impressive performances as well.

My wife’s major complaint (and I agree with her) was that the movie was too short. It’s only about an hour and a half long. The movie could’ve easily been lengthened and included all the things that we missed from the book.

I’d definitely recommend the movie for those who enjoyed the book or for people who get as excited about utopia/dystopia stories as I do.

Oh! And fair warning, Taylor Swift is in this movie and it utterly destroys your suspension of disbelief when she shows up.

-Mister Ed

Game of Thrones Spoilers

One of my friends hasn’t read the latest Game of Thrones books yet.

So whenever we try and talk about the books he’ll shout out, “No spoilers!” and then cover his ears.

I’ve heard about this sort of thing happening more and more since the TV show became popular.

People watch the show, but don’t read the books.

So you could be talking with someone about Game of Thrones stuff and then casually mention something from Dance with Dragons. The book came out three years ago right? You can’t say spoilers in response to a three year old plot twist can you?

Apparently you can.

I guess I’m a little surprised by that.

When I was reading Harry Potter this sort of thing didn’t happen.

If you were interested in talking about the series it was assumed that you’d read all of the books that were published.

The movies came out afterwards, but from my own experience very few people watched the movies that didn’t also read the books.

Why is Game of Thrones different?

At first I thought maybe book size, but both Harry Potter and Game of Thrones books are massive.

Adult content might be it, but why?

The TV show has more sexual content and violence than the book. That’s also the main reason why I don’t watch the show.

I already know what’s going to happen, so there’s no plot mystery.

But the added sexual content just makes me uncomfortable.

My opinion on sex in TV shows and movies comes from an early filmmaker named Ernst Lubitsch.

Sex couldn’t be shown on screen and you couldn’t show someone in their underwear either.

Lubitsch represented sex by holding the camera on a closed door.

That was all.

And it worked! People knew exactly what was happening on the other side of the door, but you didn’t need to show it.

Game of Thrones goes way too far on this for my taste. Many of the scenes seem like they’d fit in a porn movie better than a high fantasy TV show.

But maybe that’s what’s attracting people to the show, but not the books.

The show has more sex scenes and they’re obviously more visual than those in the book ever will be.

So maybe more people watch the Game of Thrones show than read the books because its a guilt free way to get some softcore porn.

Or maybe its some other reason, but I’ve run out of space.

-Mister Ed

Father’s Day 2014

I went home last weekend for Father’s Day.

Unfortunately for you, my dad and I are not into taking pictures of ourselves that much.

Instead you get a picture of what I gave my dad.

My dad and I spend a lot of our time together watching movies.

One of the first types of movies we watched together were Japanese samurai movies (Chanbara movies in Japanese).

I don’t think I got much out of the samurai movies when I was a kid because they were subtitled and in black and white.

Now I really appreciate the genre. A ton of my favorite movies are samurai movies.

Some greats to check out include: Rashomon, Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Harakiri, Throne of Blood, and Chushingura.

One interesting thing about samurai movies is that they are often adapted for Western audiences as… well, westerns.

Yojimbo and Sanjuro were turned into A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars MoreSeven Samurai became The Magnificent SevenChushingura was made into an action movie called 47 Ronin instead of a western. Throne of Blood is actually a Japanese adaption of Macbeth. Finally, Hidden Fortress inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars.

What’s my point with all this? Well, because my dad and I like samurai movies we also like westerns.

I recently started listening to a lot of western themed songs.

The songs are like little mini western movies. Marty Robbins is a singer who basically only writes within that small genre.

I got my dad a mix CD of these cowboy songs along with a pair of movies that inspired two of the songs, High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is an iconic song of the genre. Here’s a link if you’d like to listen to it and get a taste of the genre.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

-Mister Ed