Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Alexander’s Bad Day’ is Good for Everyone Else

posted by jtotey
Jennifer Garner, Kerris Dorsey and Ed Oxenbould (Disney)

Jennifer Garner, Kerris Dorsey and Ed Oxenbould (Disney)

Finally, this weekend you can find out for yourself why Steve Carrell is chasing a kangaroo and what that has to do with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And it will be a good excuse to go to the theater.

Sometimes when the term “loosely based” is used to describe a movie, it means that the film follows the plot of the original book only to a point. Here, Alexander is extremely loosely based on the book of the same name by Judith Viorst, but in a good way. The 32-page illustrated children’s book has very little dialogue and plot to work with for a full-length movie. “The idea for the film adaptation was to use the story in the book as the first act of the movie,” says producer Lisa Henson. “The second two acts of the film had to be a completely original storyline set during a second day that is even worse than Alexander’s first terrible, horrible, very bad day.” The end result is reminiscent to both versions of Disney’s Freaky Friday. Here, Alexander doesn’t feel that anyone in his family understands what it is like to have a bad day and can’t relate to him. On the eve of his birthday, he celebrates at midnight with some ice cream and a candle and accidentally makes a wish.  What follows is crazy hijinks that one expects from a Disney family comedy, but not exactly in the Disney tradition.

Steve Carell and either Zoey or Elise Vargas. (Disney)

Steve Carell and either Zoey or Elise Vargas. (Disney)

Directed by Miguel Arteta, Alexander may be the first Disney movie to utter the word “penis” and to have some literal bathroom humor. In a way, it actually makes this unbelievable tale a little more believable.

Like a well-made recipe, Alexander has the right mix of plot and cast. Over 500 boys tried out for the roll of Alexander Cooper, but it was Ed Oxenbould from Australia who won the role. He’s a character that everyone can relate with. The wonderful Steve Carell, (who could likely end up becoming the next “Disney Dad”) plays Alexander’s stay-at-home-but-not-by-choice pop, Ben. He hasn’t worked in seven months, so he is really looking forward to his big job interview. Kelly Cooper (Jennifer Garner) is the successful business mom working for a children’s’ book publishing company. She feels guilty leaving baby Trevor (played by twins Zoey and Elise Vargas) and going to work. Her boss (Megan Mullally) doesn’t help matters by dangling the carrot of advancement with the distinct possibility of losing more hours away from home. Her big day is centered on a new book release that will be read aloud by actor Dick Van Dyke at a local bookstore. (A fairly tasteless scene that doesn’t honor such a legend).

Jennifer Garner and Dick Van Dyke

Jennifer Garner and Dick Van Dyke (Disney)

Brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is looking forward to getting his driver’s license and attending the Junior prom with his uptight girlfriend Celia (Bella Thorne) and sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) can’t wait for her big break playing Peter Pan in the school play. And yes, things don’t go as planned for them either.

In Alexander’s family, he is usually the only one who experiences bad days. The rest of them seem to just shrug it off and move on. (Similar to going to church in a bad mood and everyone else appears to be happy.) In this story, they can’t. The movie makes it clear that having bad days is normal and getting upset about it isn’t a sin, but it is how you deal with them that makes the difference. They can choose to blame each other for all the bad things happening or they can work together to just get the day over with and try again tomorrow. It is refreshing to see that all of the story’s craziness is tempered by the message that sticking together as a family is important no matter what.

Hillsong UNITED, Skillet and ‘God’s Not Dead’ Win Big at 45th Dove Awards

posted by jtotey
(GMA Dove Awards)

(GMA Dove Awards)

For an award show, 45 years is a pretty big deal. Last night GMA celebrated its 45th presentation of the Dove Awards. The thing is; getting timely information from GMA (or any source for that matter) is difficult at best. The awards were given out at Allen Arena in Nashville, Tennessee last night and were hosted by Bart Millard of MercyMe and Lecrae and sounds like a good time was had by all, but the event will not be televised until this Sunday, October 12, 2014 on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). Photos from the awards are not yet available and information about the TV special is either not listed or is hidden on the TBN website. Be that as it may, below are the main winners this year. If you want to be surprised, stop reading now.

Hillsong UNITED were the big winners of the night with five awards for their song including Song of the Year, Artist of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year and Worship Song of the Year. “The song ‘Oceans’ has opened so many new doors and so many great opportunities to share the message of Jesus,” Hillsong United’s Jonathan Douglass said backstage as reported on Billboard.com. “Only by the grace of God is this song doing what it’s doing. . . People keep telling us the song is doing really well, but the way we gauge it is when we talk to people one on one, either back in Sydney [Australia, the worship band’s home base] or all over the world. People grab me by the shoulders, look me in the eyes and say, ‘I was going through this and that song is what helped me.’ That’s why we do these albums.”

Switchfoot won three Doves, including Rock Contemporary Song for “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” and Rock/Contemporary album and Long Form Video of the Year for “Fading West.” The rock group Skillet won Rock Album of the Year for RISE and Rock Song of the Year for “Not Gonna Die.”

“Have to say it was pretty cool hearing the news about these wins,” remarked lead singer John Cooper in press release statement. “We couldn’t be there since we’re heading to Europe again this week [their third visit in a year], but to have this album recognized in this way is definitely an honor, and we’re really thankful.”

Again, the Dove Awards took time to award Director Harold Cronk and Pure Flix Entertainment an award for Inspirational Film of the Year, God’s Not Dead.

Below is a list of the bulk of this year’s winners. For the complete list and players responsible, click here.

  • Song of the Year – “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” – Hillsong UNITED
  • Songwriter of the Year – Chris Tomlin
  • Artist of the Year – Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong Music
  • New Artist of the Year – Ellie Holcomb, Full Heart
  • Rap/Hip Hop Song of the Year – “100” – KB (ft. Andy Mineo)
  • Rock Song of the Year – Not Gonna Die” – Skillet
  • Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year – “Love Alone Is Worth The Fight” – Switchfoot
  • Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year –  “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” – Hillsong UNITED
  • Inspirational Song of the Year – “You Amaze Us” – Selah
  • Southern Gospel Song of the Year – “Revival” – Karen Peck & New River
  • Country Song of the Year – “Love With Open Arms” – Doug Anderson
  • Contemporary Gospel/Urban Song of the Year – “Every Praise” – Hezekiah Walker
  • Worship Song of the Year – “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” – Hillsong UNITED
  • Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year – Never Land – Andy Mineo
  • Rock Album of the Year – Rise – Skillet
  • Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year  – Fading West – Switchfoot
  • Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year – Overcomer – Mandisa
  • Inspirational Album of the Year – Hymns – Michael W. Smith
  • Southern Gospel Album of the Year – Oh What a Savior – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
  • Country Album of the Year – Drive – Doug Anderson
  • Contemporary/Gospel Urban Album of the Year – Greater Than – Tye Tribbett
  • Traditional Gospel Album of the Year – Duets – Donnie McClurkin
  • Christmas Album of the Year – Christmas Is Here – Brandon Heath,
  • Praise and Worship Album of the Year – Majestic – Kari Jobe
  • Short Form Video of the Year – “Shake” – Mercy Me
  • Long Form Video of the Year – “Fading West” – Switchfoot
  • Inspirational Film of the Year – “God’s Not Dead” – Pure Flix

Gone Girl Leaves You Speechless

posted by jtotey
Ben Affleck is looking for his wife in "Gone Girl." (New Regency Pictures)

Ben Affleck is looking for his wife in “Gone Girl.” (New Regency Pictures)

“Huh.” That is what I said at the end of Gone Girl. I couldn’t really believe that that was the end of the movie. Like many others who hadn’t read the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), I was left speechless. Gone Girl is a well-made movie, but not really an enjoyable one.

The basic premise of the story is that Amy Dunne has gone missing and may be murdered. Her husband, Nick, is the main suspect. The mystery slowly covers the five year marriage of the two with flashbacks and the reading of Amy’s diary. The two sources prove not to be the most reliable narrators.

Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck) are both writers. Amy’s mother is the author of a string of “Amazing Amy” children’s books, which supposedly tell of the exploits of Amy’s life, but they are more or less an exaggeration of facts. Always the dutiful daughter, Amy goes along with her mother’s wished to promote her books, but she resents her for it as well.

On the morning of the Dunne’s 5th wedding anniversary, Nick visits his bar that he co-owns with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and basically states how terrible his marriage is. When he goes home, he finds the glass coffee table in the living room is smashed and his wife is nowhere to be found. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) arrive to investigate the scene of the crime who find more questions than they find answers for. As it turns out, both Amy and Nick had their own hidden secrets and one by one, they get exposed to the light. Tyler Perry plays a high profile lawyer who doesn’t seem to care if Nick is guilty or not and Neil Patrick Harris plays an old flame of Amy’s, who appears to not have much significance to the story…at first.

The film is a great example of how one might try to bury the sins of their past never really works and how one little lie can lead to another and another and you end up with a whole web full of them.

Gone Girl is a long movie, but definitely one that grabs your attention. The story is pretty unbelievable, but that isn’t the problem with it. The movie is way too graphic, but not just in violence. The characters are fairly vulgar – do real people talk like that in real life? The “romance” scenes show too much as well. It appears that the filmmakers tried to see how far they could go with some scenes and still keep an “R” rating. Note to filmmakers: the audience isn’t stupid. We don’t need to see such graphic images and dialogues to understand the story.

The biggest problem with this film is that there is nobody to root for. They are all awful people pretending that they aren’t. By the end of the movie, you can’t help but think of better ways to end the story.

‘Kelly & Cal’ is a Sad Self-Absorbed Tale

posted by jtotey
Kelly (Juliette Lewis) and Cal (Jonny Weston) celebrate their missed proms by spray-painting the inside of a high school in 'Kelly & Cal.' (Spring Pictures)

Kelly (Juliette Lewis) and Cal (Jonny Weston) celebrate their missed proms by spray-painting the inside of a high school in ‘Kelly & Cal.’ (Spring Pictures)

Though the title says Kelly & Cal, this indie film focuses a lot more on Kelly (Juliette Lewis) and her postpartum depression than it does Cal, her 17-year-old wheelchair-bound neighbor. Kelly has recently moved to a location that is close by her husband’s work and his relatives. She is in a funk and has a hard time meeting the neighbors. She finds a “mommies’ group” at the park, but they basically give her the cold shoulder. Her pre-occupied husband, Josh (Josh Hopkins) somehow knows the magic formula on how to get their baby to sleep. This would seem helpful, but it only makes Kelly feel like a failure as a mother.

One day when Kelly can’t handle the sounds of her crying baby, she sneaks out for a smoke and meets the abrupt and incredibly rude Cal (Jonny Weston). Kelly is initially disgusted with the guy, but comes back to Cal’s garage-turned-bedroom daily to hear more of Cal’s rants about life. The two build an awkward friendship that appears to work well for both of them and the more time Kelly spends with Cal, the better she feels about herself.

Kelly is a former punk-rocker and Cal was an artist before his accident that caused him to surrender his life to the wheelchair and lose control of fine motor movements. The two share beers together and Kelly tells herself that the budding friendship is only that, but Cal seems to be taking things a bit more seriously.

To help with his wife’s depression, Josh recruits the help of his mother Bev (Cybill Shepherd) and sister Julie (Lucy Owen). Bev is quirky, but seems to love Kelly as much as her own daughter. She isn’t rattled by any of Kelly’s odd behavior. Julie on the other hand puts on a good face, but thinks the worst of Kelly and resents her. At one point she tells her sister-in-law that she has everything that Julie wants herself, so why isn’t Kelly happy? Kelly just says, “I don’t know.” Meanwhile, the more Kelly learns about Cal, the more she realizes that maybe his troubles are bigger than he lets on.

Kelly & Cal is considered a comedy, and there are a few comedic moments, but to call it a comedy is a bit of a stretch. It is a movie that focuses on unhappy people. Both Kelly and Cal live each day regretting what they used to have rather than embracing what they currently do. As a Christian, it is easy to suggest that all these people need is Jesus in their lives, and that is true. However, even though this story becomes fairly far-fetched, it isn’t something that would never happen to Christians as well. Sometimes we Christians struggle with unhappiness just as much as non-Christians and sometimes we make the same bad choices despite what the consequences are.

Kelly & Cal is rated “R” for a reason. There is a lot of coarse language, swearing and even some nudity that will turn many viewers off, but the film does have a happy ending for one of the two main players, so if you can make it till the end, you’ll be rewarded.

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