"With great power comes great responsibility" was the memorable quote from Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man
in 2002, which helped propel a film franchise into the box-office
stratosphere and launched a plethora of comic book blockbusters.
Arriving only five years after Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man
doesn't feature a similar memorable quote, but it's probably safe to
say this about Sony's reboot of the Marvel Comics' superhero: "With
great special effects and action plus strong character development comes
great response at the box office."
Independent filmmaker Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) takes over for Raimi and a Brit who's never been in an action movie before (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network)
takes the reins from Tobey Maguire as the wisecracking, web-swinging
teenager Peter Parker. Also, blond-haired Gwen Stacy (Garfield's
real-life girlfriend, Emma Stone, The Help) is Spidey's love interest—not the fiery red-head Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst).
film makes deliberate departures from Raimi's original, focusing
heavily on the hero's high-school life as a skateboard-riding outsider
and expanding on Peter's quest to understand why his parents disappeared
when he was young. His search puts him on a collision course with Dr.
Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father's former partner whose evil
alter-ego, the Lizard, becomes Spider-Man's nemesis.
Pixar's 13th film, Brave features the studio's first leading heroine—a Scottish princess named Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) who confronts tradition and challenges destiny to change her fate. Christian parents are also confronted with something they're not accustomed to with Pixar, but that's for later on in this review.
Merida is a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane).
Merida's actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her skills and resources—including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers —to undo a beastly curse before it's too late, discovering the meaning of true bravery.
Based on Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic novel A Princess of Mars, which inspired generations of filmmakers and science fiction writers, including George Lucas, James Cameron, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, John Carter—with its sweeping scope and $250-million budget—
was one of the biggest flops in Disney history when it crashed in the box office this spring. Not surprisingly, it's already out on DVD and Blu-ray.
Directed by Andrew Stanton, best known for directing the acclaimed and popular Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E, the film comes across as a cinematic epic, seeking to rival movies such as Star Wars and Avatar with its look, feel and storyline.
John Carter tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights), who is an honorable and courageous man. A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he is broken—tired of fighting for the causes of others. His fighting spirit remains strong, but Carter has turned to self-interest, and he is done with war.
While searching for gold and subsequently getting arrested while trying to fight the 7th Cavalry, Carter is transported—in a twist of fate—to the planet of Barsoom (Mars), where he discovers that his strength and jumping ability is greatly amplified to a superhuman level. He must use these newfound powers to survive the centuries-old war between the native inhabitants, while trying to save the dying world.
The follow-up to the 2008 hit, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island copies the same "what if?" scenario of the original: Is it possible that Jules Verne's books weren't just concoctions of the author's imagination, but a chronicle of his scientific discoveries?
In the sequel, Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) discovers a coded distress signal from his grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine), which only a true Vernean—people who believe that Jules Verne was writing nonfiction—could decipher.
The message leads Sean and his new stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson, taking over for Brendan Fraser, who played Sean's uncle in the original) to a mysterious island located where none should exist. With the help of rogue helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his mechanic daughter Khailani (Vanessa Hudgens), Sean and Hank set out to find the island and rescue Alexander before it's too late.
If you're looking for a movie that you and your kids can enjoy, Journey 2 fits the bill. It's full of the gags, jokes, oddities, visual twists and other ingredients that kids love. Although it has a bit of a predictable storyline, the CGI and associated imagination that went into its creation is enough to satisfy a grown-up as well. To put it another way, Journey 2 is a fun, enjoyable movie, but you won't be discussing its literary qualities when the credits are rolling.
The movie offers some teachable moments. Sean's father died when he was young, and his mother has remarried. Hank is the outsider here, and it's frustrating for him because Sean doesn't really want to do anything with him. Admirably, Hank has a long-term, nurturing father-style; he is just waiting for the right opportunity to connect with his "new" teen son. Hank's patience and understanding in love is evident.
There is just something so cool about a show that can combine danger, science/biology, fun and fishing—Animal Planet's River Monsters easily fits the bill.
Jeremy Wade is a one-man guide to the dangers that lurk below the surface of freshwater rivers and streams around the world, including Germany, Australia, India, Brazil, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, the Republic of Congo, Alaska, Florida and Texas.
In the same spirit as those crazy guys at Mythbusters, Wade—biologist and extreme angler— investigates what can seem to be outlandish fishing stories, mysteries and folklore of man-eating river predators to see if they're true or just legend.
Sometimes it's about finding just how vicious a certain species really is. Other episodes, Wade searches for a purported "man killer," which turns out to be a pussycat with gills—although it generally has a mouthful of ridiculously sharp teeth. But whatever the quarry, he almost always lands his catch, including piranha, goonch catfish, alligator gar, Wels catfish, bull shark and arapaima.
Since I dabble in fishing, I enjoy River Monsters because it offers a fun and informative behind-the-scenes look at finding, understanding and catching the "big one." Even for those who are not even remotely sport fishing inclined, Wade makes each episode a riveting mystery that must be solved. In minutes, you find yourself hooked by his story—pun intended and much more easily than the creature he's looking for.
I didn't get to see The Secret World of Arrietty when it landed in theaters earlier this year, so my four boys—5-month old baby Blake still too small to care—were excited to catch the movie about little people.
The Secret World of Arrietty is based on British author Mary Norton's children's book series "The Borrowers," which tells the story of 4-inch tall tiny people who live under floorboards and swipe what they need from the Beans (what they call humans) upstairs.
The movie was the year's top grossing film when it was released in Japan in 2010, winning the Animation of the Year award. Translated, dubbed by an American cast and distributed stateside by Walt Disney Pictures, The Secret World of Arrietty was made by legendary Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away and Ponyo).
My wife, Tammy, had read The Borrowers to two of our older sons, Alex and Andrew, so they were obviously excited to watch the film version.
Arrietty (voiced by Disney TV star Bridgit Mendler) is a plucky 14-year-old Borrower who is eager to go on her first "borrowing" with her father, Pod (Will Arnett), on a night-time expedition into the Beans' house to get a sugar cube and one tissue.
Despite angst from her hysterical mother, Homily (Amy Poehler), Arrietty goes with her dad, but is seen by sickly 12-year-old Shawn (David Henrie), who tries to befriend her. Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) slowly trusts Shawn. However, after they have been seen, Borrowers must leave their home and relocate to a new one. Meanwhile, the suspicious housekeeper Haru (Carol Burnett) makes it her mission to nab the Borrowers.
Live in a sex-charged culture, without getting zapped!
Jim is in my office one Saturday morning crying over the lust, guilt and terrible sexual choices that are destroying his life. I don't know whether to empathize with his pain or kick his butt for going to sleep on his watch!
I remind him that the battle for sexual integrity demands constant vigilance. It's a wrestling match with Satan, and any time you let your guard down, you get body-slammed.
Our society so bombards us with sex. With our male fascination for visual stimulation and our often-adolescent mindsets, this is very disconcerting.
It is easy to empathize with the early church father, Origen, who made himself a eunuch in a desperate step to achieve greater purity. But, God has also given us a wonderful gift in being sexually alive with exciting potential for deep, passionate intimacy.
The following are practical skills, actually disciplines, men need to practice as they grow up into sexual maturity and intimacy. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7, NIV).
He's a tough and resourceful former Special Forces survival expert. She's a refined and articulate TV journalist. Together, they are husband and wife, teacher and student, warrior and fair maiden, hunters and (sometimes) hunted.
Mykel Hawke and his wife, Ruth England, take on some of the most forbidding and remote locations in the world in Man, Woman, Wild—a Discovery Channel reality show.
Dropped into each spot with only a knife and the clothes on their backs, Hawke and England attempt to survive as a team for four days and nights. As they test their will and marriage, the two find common ground standing up to nature as husband and wife in the wildest places on earth.
I'm naturally skeptical of reality shows. They seem so scripted. They're so cliche. They're so ... not reality.
Arguably the most highly anticipated movie of the year with a reported staggering budget of $220 million, Marvel's The Avengers finally
hits theaters with lots of hype and hoopla—after two Iron Man films,
two Hulk flicks with two different Hulks, plus Thor and Captain America
So what can we say now that all those characters are together in one place in The Avengers? Believe the hype and hoopla!
action starts as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his colleagues at
S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics
Directorate) are protecting and collecting the energy of the Tesseract. A holdover from the Captain America movie, the Tesseract is a small, glowing blue cube with an unlimited source of energy and the gateway to different portals in space.
I believe that God wants every Christian man to be sexually successful. He desires all of us to enter into the holy of holies where spirit, soul and body intimacy occurs with your wife on a regular basis. His desire is to equip each one of us with the skills to be spiritually and emotionally intimate outside of the bedroom so that we can be sexually successful inside of the bedroom.
Are you wondering what a sexually successful man is and how you can become one? Let me be perfectly clear. Sex is by far one of God's best ideas! Don't you agree? I imagine the Creator could have made procreation a behavior that brought little pleasure and only engaged our bodies, completely detached from the wealth of a soul and spirit experience. What a bummer sex would have been if that were the case.
Thankfully our Maker decided to be very creative concerning our sexuality. Not only does your body go through the greatest physiological changes, but when engaging successfully in sex you also experience the highest chemical reward possible for your body.
As a therapist, I have counseled with thousands of men regarding sexuality issues. During this time, I have learned that many men are not sexually successful. I have "clocked in" years of my life listening to men as they share varied stories of their lack of sexual success. These men and their wives want to be sexually successful, but even after several decades of marriage, they have not achieved sexual success.
Mention the name Martin Scorsese and the image of rough-and-tumble movies (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas) pops up.
So when my wife, 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter sat down to watch Hugo on DVD together, I was excited because this was the first family-friendly Scorsese flick ever! I was not disappointed. We were riveted. Even my youngest, who is normally squirmy, and up and down and up and down was glued to the couch.
Based on Brian Selznick's 2007 novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the story centers on 12-year-old Hugo (Asa Butterfield, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)—an an orphan living in the bowels of a busy 1930s Paris train station.
Hugo fixes things and keeps the train station clocks running for his uncle—skills he learned from his father (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes), a clock maker and tinkerer. The only thing that Hugo has left that connects him to his now-dead father is an automaton (mechanical man) that doesn't work without a special key, which he doesn't have. Hugo needs to find that key to unlock the secret he believes it contains.
The Muppets have not seen the big screen since 1999's Muppets from Space, so Jim Henson's lovable creatures were long overdue to return to the cineplex.
In The Muppets, a fan named Walter (voiced by Peter Linz, It's A Big Big World) is on a backlot tour at the old Muppet Studios while on vacation in Los Angeles with his brother, Gary (Jason Segel, How I Met Your Mother), and Mary, Gary's girlfriend (Amy Adams, Julie & Julia).
No longer in business, the Muppets have all moved on—scattering to the ends of the earth to pursue their dreams, leaving the studio to slowly rot in disrepair. After sneaking off during the tour to take a closer, unauthorized look at Kermit the Frog's former office, Walter is almost discovered by ornery, disagreeable old Muppet characters Stadtler and Waldorf as they conduct the surreptitious presale of Muppet Studios to oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper, The Bourne Supremacy) who, unbeknownst to them, has discovered oil under the property and plans to tear the studio to the ground and drill.
After Walter informs Gary and Mary of the plot, they decide to go find Kermit and tell him of the impending sale. Kermit decides that if they can put on one more show and raise $10 million, they could make enough money to save Muppet Studios. All they have to do is round up the rest of the Muppets. The Great Gonzo is the CEO of Gonzo's Royal Flush, where they make toilets. Fozzie Bear performs in a Reno casino with a group of Muppet impersonators called the Moopets. Animal works at a celeb anger management center. On the other side of the pond, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor for Vogue Paris a la The Devil Wears Prada.
Can they pull together a show in time to save the old theater? Hilarity ensues. We've all grown up with The Muppet Show or its reruns. We know what to expect. This is classic Muppets, and it doesn't disappoint. Yes, the humor is corny. Yes, there are Muppets flying through the air, crashing into things, explosions, comic fighting and general goofiness. If you're looking for serious, you won't find a drop of it anywhere in this tale.
Are you thirsty for a little adventure? How about a mysterious sunken ship? Maybe being kidnapped and loaded on to a freighter bound for ...? Want to attempt to refuel a single-engine airplane in-flight? From a bottle? And, even better—pirates.
If you answered yes, The Adventures of Tintin is your ticket. Based on a series of Belgian comic books from the 1940s, the story, set primarily in Europe, centers on Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell, King Kong), a young journalist famous for solving crimes.
The movie begins with Tintin—his trusty and amusingly perceptive dog, Snowy, at his side—perusing a local outdoor marketplace, where he spies a stunningly detailed model of an old three-masted ship set for sale. He haggles the price, pays for the man-of-war model and takes possession. Within seconds of purchase, a man with an unscrupulous look about him named Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig—the current James Bond) appears—offering a large sum in exchange. Tintin refuses the offer, setting him up for an adventure of intrigue, danger and treasure.
From the start, Tintin pulls you in with its seemingly non-stop action. As the starting credits roll, you are entertained by little animated snippets of Tintin and Snowy in some of their comic book adventures. These are fun, but when the show really starts, you forget all about the credits.
Initially, my brain had some difficulty with the incredibly detailed animation that director Stephen Spielberg was throwing at me. The Adventures of Tintin is Spielberg's first stab at motion-capture filmmaking, and with "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson working with him as second-unit director and producer, the film elevates the high-tech technique to a new level.
Reminiscent of the motion-capture treatment of The Polar Express, The Adventures of Tintin is a visual buffet of detail and realism with just enough tweaks to let you know it's not truly real. I actually missed some of the initial dialogue because I was concentrating so hard on the incredible realism before me on my living room screen. I actually had to start the DVD over to catch what I missed.
With a hint of Indiana Jones in its DNA, The Adventures of Tintin is a fun, fast-paced flick that any kid will enjoy, although some of the lines are above his or her head. You can tell that although the film garners a PG rating—for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking—it's really geared toward the teen and above crowd in the same way that Bugs Bunny jokes mean one thing to a kid and something totally different to an adult.
The Adventures of Tintin features a very strong moral, redemptive message with clear and allegorical Christian content, including references to St. John the Evangelist, light bringing truth and good defeating evil. Bonus features: Along with the DVD and digital and UltraViolet copies, the two-disc set includes a 90-minute, 11-part making-of documentary.
Content Watch: The Adventures of Tintin features some mild language and scenes of stealing by a pickpocket. Capt. Haddock (Andy Serkis, "Lord of the Rings" series) is a drunk, so there is a lot of situations where his alcoholism causes problems. His drinking is never glamorized, although it does drive some of the comedy. In fact, Tintin attempts several times to help him get sober. There is an obvious lesson on how alcohol can ruin a life.
Out of all the survival reality shows, Man vs. Wild—the Discovery Channel television series featuring Edward "Bear" Grylls—is my favorite.
I especially like Man vs. Wild because Bear, with his cool British accent, engaging personality and clever demonstrations with survival techniques when faced with nature's extremes, is a committed Christian.
Although Bear was recently let go from Man vs. Wild, that's a story for another time, my two older boys (10-year-old Alex and 9-year-old Andrew) and I still enjoy the show and the Man vs. Wild Game on the Wii.
The game offers in a role play-style adventure, which requires puzzle-solving tasks throughout five expeditions—stranding players in expansive areas of virtual wilderness and challenging them to make it out alive. The action begins when a player, as Bear, is dropped into extreme conditions and forced to demonstrate indigenous survival techniques such as escaping quicksand in the desert, exploring dangerous jungles, traversing ravines in the mountains and navigating some of the world's most treacherous waters.
I was disappointed when I missed Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close at the cineplex this winter, so I was eager to catch it on DVD.
Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's acclaimed 2006 best-selling novel of the same title, the movie tells the story of a 11-year-old boy Oskar (Thomas Horn) who lost his jeweler father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), during what he calls "The Worst Day"—the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, although it failed to win, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a powerful drama that extols the bond between a father and son, family and forgiveness. A year after his dad died in the World Trade Center, Oskar, who has problems socializing and had been tested for Asperger's Syndrome, is determined to continue his vital connection to the man who playfully pushed him into confronting his wildest fears.
While looking through his father's closet one day, Oskar finds a small envelope marked "Black," with a key in it. Oskar decides the key must belong to someone named Black, and he starts a methodical search for the right person. "If there was a key, there was a lock," Oskar surmises. "If there was a name, there was a person."
His quest is an attempt to maintain his father's memory of his father, and to participate in the sort of mysterious search that his dad sometimes sent Oskar. "If you don't tell me what I'm looking for, then how will I ever be right?" Oskar asks his father. Thomas responds: "Well, another way of looking at it is how will you ever be wrong?"
As a movie buff, there are certain films that I consider traditional, yearly family must-sees—age and maturity permitting: Easter (The Passion of The Christ); Christmas (The Nativity Story,The Polar Express, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story); Memorial Day (Glory and North and South); and Veterans Day (Tora! Tora! Tora!, Saving Private Ryan and now I'm adding War Horse to the list).
Based on the Tony award-winning Broadway play and set against the sweeping canvas of World War I, War Horse tells the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and his young trainer, Albert (Jeremy Irvine). When they're forced apart by war, we follow Joey's extraordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets.
Some would say it's a formula movie designed to hold your heart for two-plus hours using every sort of cliche imaginable. Yeah, maybe ... fine. But it's also an fantastic story directed by the master Steven Spielberg and paired with a terrific score by another master himself, John Williams. I say it's a masterpiece that you get to watch with your kids.
The recipe for Wrath of the Titans: Fire. Stern looks of determination. Destruction.
Add some slimy underworld demons. Mix with an old, somewhat decrepit, dysfunctional family of Greek gods who still haven't figured out their personal differences—let alone the differences of the world. Did I say destruction?
Top it off with some loud roars of anger, more stern looks of determination, and an incredibly, unbelievable amount of computer-generated stones and rocks exploded, crushed and destroyed. Add lava and stir.
This fantasy film is a sequel to the equally destructive and surprisingly successful Clash of the Titans, released in 2010. Better CGI and 3D rendering make this installment easier to watch than the last, which was rebooted from the classic Clash of the Titans, released in 1982. This isn't a flick for those who love snappy dialogue and deep characters, but judging from the audience that loaded up the theater where I was screening, Wrath of the Titans will be a hit with the age 13-24 crowd.
Based on Tarzan creator Edgar
Rice Burroughs’ classic novel A Princess of Mars, which inspired
generations of filmmakers and science fiction writers, including George Lucas,
James Cameron, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, John Carter—with its
sweeping scope and $250-million budget—touches down in more than 3,500 screens
Directed by Andrew Stanton, best known for
directing the acclaimed and popular Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E,
the film comes across as a cinematic epic, seeking to rival movies such as Star
Wars and Avatar with its look, feel and storyline.
John Carter tells the story of war-weary,
former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights),
who is an honorable and courageous man. A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he is
broken—tired of fighting for the causes of others. His fighting spirit remains
strong, but Carter has turned to self-interest, and he is done with war.
Green Lantern was part of a crowded superhero line-up at the cineplex last summer along the likes of Captain America, Thor and X-Men: First Class.
After recently catching the movie on DVD, I would have to say it's all flash, but no substance. The 3-D special effects are visually stunning and mesmerizing, but the storyline and premise is convuluted and weak. With a $200 million budget, Green Lantern fizzled at the domestic box office, ending up with only $114 million.
The plot centers on pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who is handed a mysterious ring by an alien whose spacecraft crashed on Earth. Hal soon learns that he has been selected for membership in the group of intergalactic peace officers called Green Lantern Corps, who promote peace, order and justice.
After, Hal recites the Corps' oath: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's light."
Great setup for a good versus evil tale, right? Not quite. The movie's protagonit is Parallax, the ancient enemy of the Green Lanterns who has garnered the corruptive yellow power of fear, threatens all of Earth. So Hal must build up the moral courage to stand up to evil.
While trying to master the Green Lantern ring, Hal has to deal with his feelings of insecurity from his pilot father's fiery death years earlier, affections for fellow pilot, Carol (Blake Lively), and the jealousy of Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a creepy old friend who has basically been possessed by another alien.
Although the story is fairly true to the characters from DC comics, the characters don't seem believable as they might. Extras on the Blu-ray version include the theatrical version as well as an extended cut, several featurettes and a digital comic book.
Content Watch: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, Green Lantern features more than two dozen profanities, several scenes that show people drinking alcohol and an implied night of casual sex. The movie's creepy villains could be very scary for small children. I watched the film on Clearplay, which filters out most of the intense violence and all of the light obscenities. I didn't watch Green Lantern with my three oldest boys, ages 10, 9 and 5.
Genuine intimacy is the cry of our nation. Many individuals search through multiple marriages trying to find the vital connection their souls long for. Still louder shouts the silence of the man or woman who has been married for decades and feels alone in that partnership.
Many feel they have done everything right at home and with their spouses, yet there is little or no intimacy. Far too many partners feel like roommates—as if they are just getting by emotionally. If fulfillment is promised, then why is it that few couples enjoy that impassioned connection?
I don't think this is God's plan for your marriage. He wants you to live the abundant life and to have a marriage full of joy and love—and this is what we're going to accomplish these next thirty days. We are going to make your marriage over into what God has designed for you and your spouse.
I have lived in the laboratory of other people's marriages for many years. In addition, I myself have journeyed from the inability to be intimate to a place of deep intimacy and great fulfillment with my wife, Lisa.
Early in my married life I had the feeling that I was surrounded by walls. I desperately wanted to step out from behind those walls but could not find a way to connect to my wife. God in His graciousness drew me into the field of marriage and family counseling, where I gained much understanding. Still, no one explained, These are the steps to intimacy: The mystery of intimacy and the skills required to build and maintain it continued to elude me—as it does for so many others in my field.