Category Archives: Movie Reviews

All Movies, all the time.

Well, it’s the end of November, which means it’s cold outside. Which means it’s less than 70 degrees outside, which means we at my house are doing a whole lotta movie-watching. Last week we had an ice storm so of course Caleb decided to Redbox it up with “Man of Steel” and “The Host”, and also “Food Fight” for the kids.

For the record:

  • Food Fight” was apparently so lameballs that my children–the ones who will watch any stupid thing anytime, anyplace–asked to shut it off. It was that bad, folks. Don’t waste your time.
  • Man of Steel“: I kept falling asleep so I can’t say I’ve seen the whole thing. Lots more alien-planet than I expected, and not enough Kansas cornfields. The dude who played Superman in this movie was better than the dude who played him in “Superman Returns”, just as Amy Adams was waaaaaay more better than Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. I liked Kevin Costner being all Jonathan Kent-like, but–I’m sorry–wasn’t he supposed to die of a heart attack? In a barn? Not in a crazy dramatic tornado sweep. Highly unrealistic in this fictional story about a flying space-man with super-strength, if you ask me.
  • The Host“: it was okay. Schizophrenic girl from the future talks to herself all the time, gets lost in the desert. Wheat fields inside of a cave. Random kid. A love triangle (or rectangle?) that transcends space and time. Weird.

Personally I am so satisfied with movies that we already just own, most of which belong to the kids. My favorites? “Elf” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks”. In fact, Cheyenne and I are constantly taking scenes from these movies and working them into real-life situations, and if you’ve seen these movies over and over again, you’ll get it:

Me, making my own envelope out of brown paper.

Cheyenne: “Let’s talk about your envelope, mom.”

Me: “My envelope? Well, strange as it sounds, I actually got the idea for it–”

Cheyenne: “The envelope sucks, mom.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Cheyenne: “Your envelope? It’s awful. I hate it.”

Me: “I don’t…”

Cheyenne: “I need something new! Something…store-bought! I mean let’s get real here–who’s going to use it? Libby? Kayla? Not a chance.”

Me: “But I…”

Cheyenne: “If I wasn’t your daughter, I’d say ‘You get back at that table and make another envelope!’ …but I am your daughter, and I’m telling you there is no point in making envelopes that no one is ever, ever going to use.”

Me: “Ever?”

End scene.

Me, getting my Sunday school lesson laid out in the classroom before the students arrive.

Me: “Cheyenne–have you ever seen a resource room?”

Cheyenne: “A resource room? No, I haven’t.”

Me: “Oh, I mean, WOW. This place, there’s seashells, scrap ribbon–”

Cheyenne: “Scrap ribbon!”

Me: “And-and cardstock, in every color! And you can touch it all!”

Cheyenne: “(gasp) that sounds amazing…can we go there?”

Me: “Well, I have to work here…but maybe…you can go there?”

Cheyenne: “Okay. Okay, I’ll go there!”

end scene

You guys, this is just the sort of sick stuff we do for fun. And you’d be surprised how many times we can work these conversations into our day. Somebody tell me that this is normal.

I don’t know what I’m going to do without Cheyenne next year. Who’s going to recite movies with me? Who’s going to laugh at my dumb jokes? Who’s going to tell me not to sing? Caleb? No, it won’t be the same.

That’s all.


Monday Morning Art and a WWZ mini-review.


Why yes, those are the sticks that we ganked from a state park in New Mexico.  And they’re far from completely decorated. We have been painting all morning. Oh, what? It’s 1:00 in the afternoon? Fine.

Nevermind that there’s laundry to fold and overdue library books to return. My kids are in the painting mood and we leap on those kind of opportunities around here. There’s an art festival at our church on August 18th that I’m totally stoked about. The theme is very uplifting and it’s based on 1 Corinthians; anyone from the community can participate by entering works that might support a message of unity, purity, and maturity. What did my kids choose to paint? Sunflowers and the city of Los Angeles.

Merrick's exquisite contribution.

Merrick’s exquisite contribution.

Who am I to crush budding creativity?

With that in mind, I am offering some painting sessions at my house for little and big artists who might like a small amount of direction in someone else’s (already-paint-splattered) kitchen.

$25 covers supplies, painting time, and light instruction. I will limit the session size to one or two people at a time. Dates available are July 8th, 11th, 15th, 18th, 22nd, and 25th, at 1:00 in the afternoon until whenever. Not like dinnertime whenever, but I’m willing to allow up to 3 hours because artists simply cannot be rushed.

On a totally unrelated note, I finally saw World War Z. A word of warning: it is nothing like the book. I mean, there are zombies. And they’re a world-wide problem. And that’s about it.

I’m also not a fan of fast zombies.

No. Just, no.

Brad Pitt’s thick wavy locks never once looked grimy or greasy, which I found highly unrealistic since, geez, they were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and showers aren’t exactly convenient in times like that. I have trouble washing my hair once a day and my only problem is 2 kids that might burn the house down in the 15 minutes it takes me to get clean.

But other than that, the movie was really, really good, and very suspenseful. And sweet, because people helped each other…they also got eaten, but honestly there wasn’t a whole lot of Walking Dead-type gore, which I was totally okay with. I did get pretty creeped out during a few scenes, but by the end of the movie, the twitching spastic zombies were almost comical.

And that’s my take on WWZ.

Sidenote: I’m banking heavily on Cheyenne’s majoring in biochemistry and going to work for the CDC, so that I’ll have an in. If anyone would like to contribute toward her college fund, know that you’ll be doing yourselves a favor in the long run–someone’s got to keep these plagues in check.

Epic. Epic the movie.

Saturday was sunshine, lollipops and gum after the hellish nightmare that was Friday evening. After another *awesome* night underground in the neighbors’ tornado shelter, we decided it was high time to: mow the lawn/go to Lowe’s/plant some flowers/till the garden/spray some bug spray/clean the entire house again/do all the laundry in the whole world/cheat on my diet and drink Starbucks’s magnificent Hazelnut Macchiato/play on a playground/and see a movie.

We settled on Epic–never has a little cartoon fairy man been more attractive than when voiced by Colin Farrell.

Oh, how I love you, Irish accent! Let me count the ways:

  1. Colin Farrell

Anyways, here’s the back-story on why else I loved this movie: when I was in third grade, my family moved to Arkansas. We lived in a pinkish-tan, 2-story farmhouse-looking house with a giant yard that backed up to the great woods. Given the apartment yard we just came from, I was in heaven. My mom never objected to me playing in the first 10 feet of that woods, but I had the heart of an exploring lion, I tell you! And I could not be tamed. Almost every summer day, I told my mom I was going to my friend’s house for a long while to ride bikes and watch movies.

(Side note: she never asked about the giant backpack full of apples and granola bars that I took with me–I don’t know if she was clueless or just waiting for me to commit the actual crime so that she could punish me because I’m sure she just loved to punish me.)

I freaking loved the woods. I loved to pretend that I was hunting fairies–made easier of course by the legit plastic magnifying glass I got from a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I spent hours in the deep, deep woods. My mom would inevitably find out (“How was Tracee’s house, Toni?” “Oh, fine mom. We played.” “Really? Why do you have sticks and leaves in your hair? And why are you crawling with ticks?” “Um…their house is really dirty?”) and I’d get yelled at, but the adventure was always worth the trouble, and I’d be right back at it a few days later.

Epic satisfied my day-dreaming 9-year-old soul. It’s like Willow, on crack…except cartoon. And without midgets. Or babies. Or crazy Val Kilmer. It’s adventurous, magical, and woodsy. There’s a lot of good vs. evil battles, a lot of heart-breaking and heart-warming father/daughter drama. The animation is gorgeous. The snails/slugs rock their obvious roles as the comic relief. Mia and I were totally into this movie. I myself will have no problem watching it 8,000 times on DVD.

The down side: the plot was slow at times and somewhat predictable. Merrick enjoyed the movie but it did not hold his attention quite as well as a movie about, say, extreme ninja-fighting robots driving race cars would have. But, every time I saw him start to get bored, the snails would do something hilarious to would refresh his interest.

We’re pretty picky about what movies we spend $28 to attend at the actual theaters. Few have been worth it. I have trouble saying that Epic met our expectations; it was enjoyable, yes–but not epic. I might re-title it “Neglected Girl Gets Shrunk and Saves the Forest”. Nevertheless, it was pretty good and most kids of most ages will absolutely love it.

Well played, Victor Hugo. Well played.

I’ve been watching the hell out of Les Miserables since I red-boxed it the other night. And–ok, fine. Here it is–even thought the Bible spells out the same concepts just as good, I can’t get enough of this story.

I’m being sappy. Whatever. I can’t help it.

I’m particularly stuck on the bad guy Javert. Bless his heart, he’s not even that bad. He just believes with all his might that rules are rules are rules, and if you break them, you get punished. End of conversation.

javert cat

(Can we stop and talk about how hilarious this cat is for a second?)

Javert’s line of thinking is not totally flawed: “Honest work. Just reward. That’s the way to please the Lord.” Sounds reasonable to me! Javert goes on to say that he was born in a prison and raised in the gutter–so if he, of all people, can make good choices, anyone can. And should.

I have a tendency to agree in, oh, EVERY way: “You messed up. This is what happens. Good luck getting anybody to love you or trust you again.” I look down on people who have wronged me, or on people who have just done wrong. Save your breath. Save your tears.

Except what about mercy and second chances? Does justice really mean following the law to perfection, and condemning those who mess up even once? What about helping people who are trapped and suffering? What about people who can’t even comprehend God’s unconditional love because they’ve never experienced it in the smallest sense here on earth?

Save your breath. Save your tears. I am stuck on this. What if Jesus had said these words to us? I’m sick over how judgmental I can be, out loud or in my own head. How can I be so hypocritical? I have been pardoned so many times for so many terrible things. How can I look at anyone and think that I’m better than they are? That certain people are just not as worthy as I am of love and forgiveness?

Oh surely I’m not that bad–I believe in God! I treat people who I love with respect and loyalty, and I value my friendships! I know the ten commandments, and I follow them!

Matthew 5:47 says “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”

God means “Great! You believe in me, you half-ass my laws, and you’re nice to the people who are nice to you. Exactly how is that different from just about everyone on the planet?”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-40: “…’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

He follows up in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Jean Valjean seemed to have it all nailed down. Love God? Check. Help poor people? Check. Take care of orphan? Check.


In Javert’s eyes, Jean Valjean was a criminal on the run. He was breaking the law! But held up to the words of the Bible, Valjean knew more about justice and pleasing the Lord than Javert ever would.

“…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Shocker: the world–with all its customs and lifestyles, governments and laws–is not always right.

And here’s the thing of it: nothing–nothing–is stopping us from doing the things that God commands of us. Love the Lord my God? I ought to be straight scrambling to feed the hungry and help the needy. Love my neighbor as myself? The parable of the Good Samaritan tells me I should be showing ridiculous compassion to my worst enemy.

What do these commands mean to us individually? Should I, as a naive mother of 3, prance downtown in the night and hand out buckets of money to homeless people laying in the street? Or can I take a different approach to helping the poor? Should I adopt a child, or can I make a difference in the lives of many children by wholeheartedly giving my time and talents? Should I keep my blog topics light and humorous, or should I write about the things that are important to God?

Do I hoard His gifts, or do I turn around and share them with whoever I lay eyes on?

Can I have this kind of courage? Can I prove that I understand justice? Can I show God how thankful I am for His mercy? Can I demonstrate His love to others who are traditionally unloved by society?

Can I do this? Can I pour myself out for God again and again and again, even when I am tired? Even when I have nothing left to give? Even if it will cost me my reputation, or my money, or my freedom, or my life?

I’m scared of knowing the right I should do, but not doing it. I don’t want to cheer for Valjean, but act like Javert.

I think it’s time to take this movie back.

Les Miserables

I thought all the singing would throw me off–because literally every word is sung. It was Cheyenne who informed me–after noticing my “this is totally awkward and I hate it face”–that we were at the theaters to watch a musical, afterall.

And so I sat through a disappointingly ugly Hugh Jackman sing without so much as popping an adamantium claw. Then I actually began to relax a little and enjoy.

And then freaking Russel Crowe started singing. And then he and Hugh Jackman started sing-talking, like the way my sisters and I used to do for no reason at all:

Give me my Barbie doll back, or you’ll regreeeeeeeeeet iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!

I’m telling mom that you won’t shaaaaaaaaaare!

Except our music wasn’t pre-written or rehearsed. I ask you–who’s better suited for Broadway? Hugh Jackman and his vocal coaches, or Toni, Jenny, and Katie, who could make musicals in their sleep before they were 10 years old?

So anyways.

Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Karen from Mean Girls–they all sing! Quite beautifully, actually. The acting was freaking brilliant. And the story, oh the story.

I’ve never seen so much forgiveness and love all crammed into one 2 hour and 45-minute movie, which was amazing by the way, even with all the singing.

I guess I should read the book. Because I totally dug the general premise of the storyline: Love God, love people.

Be aware: this is very much not the PG-13 movie to take your 13-year-old to, in my opinion. I took Cheyenne who is quite the mature 16-year old but looking around the theater we did see some elementary school-aged kids, and I wondered what the conversations on the way home in their cars would be like. Themes be intense! Lots of prostitution and doin’ it and inuendo and whatnot, though most of it was tastefully handled, I thought.

Les Miserables? Super awesome, super moving. Worth every penny to go see in theaters and worth every awkward moment spent sitting through awkward singing. Loved it.

A Review By Me on Madagascar 3

I’m rhyme-y today. How do you like that?

First of all let me just say that we here at the house of Toni are some kids’ movies super-enthusiasts. I loved Madagascar. I shed tears of joy in Madagascar 2. And my heart pretty much exploded like a firework over this last Madagascar. Because? It’s FREAKING BRILLIANT.

I’d be justified in ending this post right there. I love this movie. It’s not vulgar, not stupid. Just funny, sweet, and inspiring. And, p.s. I almost always give away the ending; so if you haven’t seen it yet, read the rest of this and watch it anyway, because it is just that good.

If you’ve got kids under 10, you know how Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria have struggled to find their place in the world. They started in relative happiness at the Central Park Zoo; they wanted to vacation in Connecticut and wound up on the lemur-covered island of Madagascar. Then they made it to the continent of Africa. This whole time all they can think about is how awesome it would be once they finally got back to New York.

In Madagascar 3, the animals are making yet another attempt at flying over the Atlantic. After a shady run in Monte Carlo, they crash-land somewhere in Europe. In order to escape the police, they hop on a circus train filled with animals who do lame acts. (And this is all hilarious, by the way.) Coincidence? I think not. Here’s where it gets extra awesome.

King Julien falls in love with a giant bear on a tricycle. For the past two movies, he was a king determined to rule not only Madagascar but also Africa and eventually New York–until he meets his “hairy queen”. For once, he is absolutely smitten with someone besides himself and it. is. precious. Sonja and Julien? Most beautiful love story in the entire history of the world. He steals the Pope’s ring for her. He buys her a Ducati. When they have their first fight, it is just heartbreaking. No, really. I…actually cried.

And the rest of the animals? Their only chance at getting back to New York is by wowing the pants off of an American circus promoter, so they set about the business bringing the circus back to its former glory…and then some.

Alex does trapeze. Marty gets shot out of a cannon. Melman and Gloria dance on a tightrope together. There are lasers and neon and lights and colors and gigantic smiles on the faces of all the animals. They are free and alive. They are seeing the world. They inspire the other animals. They entertain the crowds and they make the children happy.

Best of all, they wear rainbow-colored afro-wigs and sing maniacally.

It’s beautiful, really, the way these animals finally find their hearts’ desires (thrill, freedom, friendship of circus life)–even though they set out in the beginning seeking something totally different (the security and tranquility of the zoo).

So here I go off on my tangent: Isn’t life just like that? We think we want one thing and then life takes us for a crazy ride and we realize we’re totally happy and fulfilled with something quite the opposite of what we started out to find.

I know that has been just about the way of it for me. What I think will bring me peace usually brings me pain. Avoiding my fears doesn’t give me courage. And sticking to the expected, well-worn path leads me to a safe, secure…DEAD END.

If I had had my way, Caleb and I would have stayed in Florida 8 years ago. We would have closed on the house we were scheduled to buy. Caleb would fight mad traffic to and from his 8-to-7 Mon-Fri desk job. We would have played with our kids in our backyard the size of my dining room table. We would have hung around our same friends and stuck ourselves with the same habits and never broken out of our same box. We’d have gotten drunk on the beach every weekend and we (or at least I) would have run home to the parents whenever trouble of any kind reared its ugly head.

But God had other plans.

And so here we are. In Oklahoma of all places. Way out in the wide open spaces of the country where there are no tall trees and there is no beach, but there are the most glorious sunsets ever followed by nights of stars galore. We are still married, most of the time happily. And we are blessed right up to our ears with friends and dogs and kids. And God has given us a love and a security and a peace that I never knew I was looking for. It’s enough to make this girl feel like an afr0-wearing zebra flying through the air.

Madagascar 3? 2 opposable thumbs up.

Red Dog: My Short Review

I don’t always cry over a movie, but when I do, I also want to pet my dog while eating a vegemite sandwich. Here are the small handful of movie moments that are guaranteed to make me cry, everytime, always:

  • Harry and the Hendersons: obviously the part where well-meaning George Hen punches Bigfoot in the face, gangnam style.
  • An American Tail: the part where Fievel–bless his pea-pickin’ heart–is reunited with his family…and also a cat, a prissy Aristocratic mouse lady, and a perpetually hammered rodent-mayor. On a hat. Under some kind of drainpipe spewing out fascinatingly clear, sparkling water.
  • Homeward Bound, The Incredible Journey: the scene where Shadow has a death wish and just gives up.
  • Marley and Me: If you don’t cry at least twice during this movie, you are a stone-cold cyborg incapable of feeling; and if you don’t love this movie, I cannot be your friend.
  • Hachi: The part where Richard Gere dies. And then the part where Hachi dies and dead Richard Gere is waiting for him on the train tracks. Oh my emotional stars.

And now, after an entire weekend of trying to laze-away all our illnesses with mass quantities of chicken soup and Netflix, I will present to you the newest addition to Toni’s No-Fail Cryfest Movie List: Red Dog.

The most glorious piece of cinematic brilliance known to man. So scrumptroulescent, I can barely move.

Now this is a heart-warming movie, based on a true story of a dog who actually seemed more brownish than anything, except he probably had a permanent coat of red dirt on him. It is rated PG although there were a couple parts in it that, while they seemed to fly right over Mia’s head, Caleb and I blushed over. (There’s a scene where this Italian guy describes the boobs of the women in his hometown.)

General idea: A dog somehow winds up in this BFE mining town in Australia. All the mining people just love him and he spends a lot of time in the bars, bonding with everyone (but with no one person in particular more than the other). Red Dog adopts Josh Lucas as his master, and Josh Lucas adopts a suprisingly normal-looking Rachel Taylor as his girlfriend, and life for the trio is good.

Until Josh Lucas has an unfortunate run-in with a kangaroo.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Red Dog wanders the Australian countryside, hitch-hiking, fighting with cats, and just generally being bad-ass. He even goes to Japan. He becomes legendary. Everyone loves him.

And of course then, as in every good dog movie, he dies.

Did you need a spoiler alert for that? Most likely not. Unless you know nothing about dog movies–in which case you’re a loser; which is not probable, since only winners read my blog.

For the most part, this movie is sweet–just dang sweet. And dang sad. Plus I kind of want to move to Australia now. And it probably goes without saying that my own 3 dogs have had a lot of treats today.

%d bloggers like this: