Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

ABraveHeartLizzieVelasquezStory_3D_DVDDirected by Sara Bordo, we meet a 26-year-old motivational speaker and author Lizzie Velazquez.  She is diagnosed with a rare congenital disease that thwarts her body from gaining weight. Soaking wet she weighs 58 pounds and can only see out of one eye. To make matters worse, she was subjected to bullying in childhood and even today she is bullied by random people.  The best word I can think about is “resilient” because she is powerfully intelligent with an amazing and beguiling sense of humor.  Velazquez turned for the best when she was seventeen. Surfing on YouTube, she came across video footage titled The World’s Ugliest Woman, and it referred to her.

What could she do? Turn the other cheek and continue avoiding the foreseeable looks and caustic backhanded remarks.  What would you do if you met her for the first time? Normally, people react and reflect on their reaction and correct themselves, so they can see her beyond her ugliness. Yet, there is a hit of guilt and even shame once they recover their humanity.  Under those conditions is exactly the way Velazquez approached her talks and wrote her books. Watching the documentary, one can’t help but admire her rare patience and understanding.

A Brave Heart follows her transformation from a budding victim to an inspiring personality. Bordo weaves the story of Velasquez’s journey, starting with a series of eloquent and expressive posts on her own YouTube channel, an autobiography, and presentation at TEDxAustinWomen discussing self-image that circulated quickly in discussions and on the Internet.

Bordo garnishes the documentary with interviews, home videos, and footage of her lectures.  We journey with Velasquez’s as she confronts her health issues, a condition continued undiagnosed for years, and she proceeds with being directed to never-ending tests and medical exams.

All in all, don’t expect an immediate resolve like a fairy tale. Velazquez still has her plight, though she has notoriety and success. Not all oddities or freaks have such luck. Let’s just love one another as we are not our bodies but shapeless souls with a common goal – be happy with who we are and love one another.

Little Dead Rotting Hood

rottinghoodDirected by Jared Cohn, Little Dead Rotting Hood maintains the idea that some low-budget horror movies are not worth watching unless you are an avid horror movie junkie who needs a fix.

The storyline works on paper but the production value needs work. The movie is described as something sinister lurking in the woods, and the residents of the small town nearby are falling victim to its bloodlust. When the town sheriff discovers that the wolves inhabiting the nearby forest are getting more aggressive and even deadly, he soon uncovers a danger beyond his imagination.

Different from the description, Little Dead Rotting Hood jumps around like ideas and the plot rarely meet with coherent understanding. Nothing is clear. The story is murky, even the significant twist near the end is awkward, just hard to make sense out of it all. I don’t want to share the key points because you will see the movie, and it is best for you to determine if you like it or not.

The movie is filmed well and captures the idyllic life of living in a small town. The surroundings are flourishing and stunning while the overall location looks perfect for the story. The acting works though with familiar faces, Eric Balfour and Patrick Muldoon.

Laura Beth Love did a marvelous job with the cinematography, and I’d like to see her work on a better movie, where she can really shine with a good plot.

Kill Game

Kill GameWritten and Directed by Robert Mearns, Kill Game is your typical low-budget, slasher and whodunit horror movie. Jimmy, played by Nathan Ross Murphy, becomes the first victim. The story meets a small group of close friends, who attend his funeral.  The cast in the small group are Sari Sanchez, Joe Adler, Pierson Fode, Michael Galante, and Laura Ashley Samuels.

They are close because they share a deadly secret that happened five years ago in High School.  They played a prank on a student who died from it.  Covering their tracks by masking the incident as a drowning accident, the group lives with the horrible crime, never realizing that their actions will soon haunt them, with deadly results.

Shortly after funeral, they come to terms that anyone of them may also become a victim.  The reason they believe they are next is because they not only played a prank that killed the student but played some pretty mean pranks on other students and teachers. Yet, they have no idea who the slasher is because they played pranks on a so many people.  Then, Jimmy’s twin brother shows up from out of town attending the funeral, and is trying to uncover what happened to his brother. He has no idea about the deadly prank relating to his twin’s murder.

The movie is hard to follow at times because the clues to the murder are all over the place. The sequence of discovery is not linear or easy to follow. For example, a mask was found, but how did the group relate it to the killer. The clues just didn’t add up like a good murder mystery.

It is obvious this is a low-budget horror movie that is full of clichés and empty on good substance.  I am sure most horror movie junkies will want to see this movie for what it is worth.

Duck Dynasty Seasons 1-8

duckdynasty18America’s most charming duck hunting family is with us in Duck Dynasty as we learn the hilarious ins and outs of the Robertson family. They run Louisiana’s top duck calling business, Duck Commander. They also employ half their neighborhood as the business continues to grow. True to their roots, they’ve never lost their taste for fun and adventure, or their captivating Southern charm. Here is the brief low-down for each season in this 8 disc set.

Season 1

We meet the Robertson family, and enjoy their taste in humor, innocence, family bonding, and running a multi-million dollar company.  Some would say this is truly American values: Faith in God, Family and hard work while making sure life is to be enjoyed.  Learning the back woods, how to live off the land while wearing a beard is what the show is all about. I wouldn’t call them rednecks, just good old boys sharing what they like to do best, including the family of Love and respect for others. Lessons are the topic of each episode. Not killing for the fun of it. Kill for what you need to eat, or donate it to your favorite charity for people who need the food.

Season 2

Keeping to the original storyline, these guys are not selling-out.  Authenticity makes this show worth its weight in Duck Commander and the family of love and respect for each other.  Phil Robertson (Papa Phil), the Dynasty Godfather, is one lucky dude because he is blessed with more charisma than feathers on a duck.  The whole dynasty is a joy to watch.  We have Uncle Si, Willie, Jase, Jep, and Miss Kay, who is a great cook.  Even the employees, such as Martin and Godwin, make the show hilarious.

Season 3

We know now, for sure, this show is funny.  Yet, Duck Dynasty still manages to teach us how the environment can be used for survival.  We are talking squirrels, frogs, and other mammals as well as oviparous (birds) species are edible and delicious.  However, continuity, folks who make sure the show is continuously correct, must have taken a break during this season. The gang blows up Si’s truck, yet the truck is seen in a couple of episodes later propelling some kind of device in the swamp. Not much charity and Christian moments in this season and I haven’t a clue why not.

Season 4

The family and employees are super happy. Phil Robertson shares his story of how he overcame tribulation and became a real individual. Papa Phil is grateful for women of essence, particularly his wife. He offers bighearted advice to his grandsons on finding the right woman, “When you’re talking…pain can come up on you real fast.” Miss Kay is the charming mother of the family, and a talented cook. She is a true individual, and has a unique connection with her rat terriers.  Along comes her sons Willie, Jase, Si, Jep, and employees Martin and Godwin. Godwin is lucky to have some “ham samiches” and his funny voice sounds to me like a bear or a similar creature.  We are also graced with Uncle Si dancing and “Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle.” After viewing this season, I felt motivated to kick back and not worry about a thing.

Season 5

The show is now truly an original piece of work that is beyond anyone’s imagination. The finale is unique, where Jase and Missy’s astonishing, delightful little girl, Mia, born with a split in the roof of her mouth brought tears to our eyes.  What she went through is an inspiration, as each Robertson is.  After undergoing multiple surgeries with guts, faith, and family, she amazes anyone. Missy sings a song at the end that is pure magical if not angelic.  The whole season is heartening, nourishing, unconventional fun.  Phil inspires us all with his “My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander.”

Season 6

Robertsons offer more of their commitment to serving God, bringing warmth, fun, and entertainment.  As Christians, they are not flawless, and they live life with its troubles as they bring glory to God.  Uncle Si cracks me up at every turn. He is so funny with his dry wit and humor. It is good, clean humor with a lesson of virtues.  Do I sense a chance in the storyline for the coming seasons?

Season 7

Little too much sentimentality for my taste is my first thought about this season. The family knows the series has endured a long run with great success, and is compelled to focus on their faith.  They build a house for a friend that is a bit staged than reality TV.  Don’t get me wrong, the family is still funny and there are good times with plenty of arguing and family-values.

Season 8

When I first heard of this show, I could not believe it was true. The family-values theme was never used when my friend described the show. But, it is a key character in the storyline where the family performs a quick prayer of thanks at dinner time.  That is one of the unique aspects about show because you don’t see that in other shows today.  Don’t think they are stupid or idiots because they are not for they own one of the wealthiest duck calling companies in the world.

All in all, the 8 disc set features more than just the episodes. The set all so includes exclusive footage not seen on TV, Webisodes, behind the scenes, and deleted scenes.

For a reality TV show, this is the best family show with family values, no foul language, and just ordinary people living. Most of all, if you purchase the collector’s set you get a beard.

Mercury Plains

Mercury PlainsDirected and written by Charles Burmeister, Mercury Plains stars Scott Eastwood as Mitch. He is in his twenties, unemployed, and lives in Jerkwater, Texas. Wedged in the back of a trailer with his mother and stepfather, he lacks ambition and bearing.  One day he decides to go across the Mexican border with a similarly lowlife buddy and find some adventure.  At the first sign of danger, his buddy ditches Mitch and leaves him in the throes of trouble.  Mitch seems to handle the situation without reservations, and grabs the attention of The Captain, played by Nick Chinlund. He is the local paramilitary leader, who observes Mitch’s lack of direction but the ability to think fast on his feet.  The Captain recruits him and gives him five thousand dollars if he joins his band of soldiers. The paramilitary group waylays drug gangs and places a nice dent in the drug industry.

The movie is a familiar story where The Captain has a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend, played by Angela Sarafyan. She hooks up with Mitch, and they fall head over heels for each other. Meanwhile, the paramilitary team is made up of misfits. Most of them are in their late teens or early twenties while some younger boys in their tweens are also part of the military group.  The soldiers raid drug gangs and other dangerous elements, but these moments barely make the movie exciting. Mitch now has a purpose in life, but it doesn’t last long. All is not as it seems. Finally, The Captain confronts Mitch about his interested in his girlfriend. Given these points, the rest of the story is predictable all the way to the end.

Eastwood, who is the son of Clint Eastwood, is good as Mitch, and he is captivating on the screen, but he needs to pick better movies.

Some Kind of Beautiful

somekindDirected by Scottish television and film director Tom Vaughan, the movie follows Richard Haig, played by Pierce Brosnan. Haig teaches the Romantics at Cambridge where he encounters an American student named Kate, played by Jessica Alba. They start a relationship of sorts, after 6 months, she is having his baby. Richard is an honorable man and takes his new and young bride to Los Angles.  He meets Kate’s half sister, played by Salma Hayek. Now, we have a threesome happening here, and Kate has a baby boy.

Haig discovers his wife is leaving him, and his life is crushed. His entire livelihood is concentrated on his son while trying to get a new job.  His situation gets twisted around and he begins to have lusty and romantic feelings for Olivia. The problem is that his Visa renewal comes up. At this point, Richard needs to find a job, remain in the US, and find love with Olivia whom he never wanted to find love with in the first place.

The storyline is nothing new, but it is good to see these actors together. Vaughan has done his fare share of romantic comedies, yet this one misses its mark. The movie is way too predictable and not original with any surprises. Don’t get me wrong. It is funny and easy to watch, but Vaughan holds back the final punch for the knockout of laughs.  The actors do a fine job trying to save the movie from being too cookie cutter while the movie holds its own. Some Kind of Beautiful is worth a watch on cable or on a streaming network if you like these actors and can put up with a so-so, funny story.  But, watch the trailer…you’ll have a good laugh. Fun stuff.

Baseball Legends

B_LEGENDS_3D_DVDBaseball is America’s favorite past time.  We certainly have our fair share of baseball heroes who have become legends in their own time.  Watching the four documentaries in Baseball Legends, I learned so much about four very different athletics.  All special and talented in their own way, by some they are Gods, built the foundation of what we have today.

Co-directed by Josh Oshinsky and Jeff Spaulding, Baseball Legends is narrated by Martin Sheen.  The DVDs offer epic tales of four baseball heroes. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Lou Gehrig turned baseball into the National Pastime that it is presently.

Each story is inspiring while bringing a fresh historical and poignant perspective of the lives of these sport icons. Using rare and enhanced archival material and state-of-the-art production techniques, these films are perfect for anyone who is interested in baseball and history in general.

Some keep points covered in the movies are Babe Ruth, his bat turned him into a household name, Ted Williams, the last player to hit .400, Lou Gehrig, won 6 World Series before illness ended his career, and Hank Aaron, rose from adversity to break the record of a king.

DVD Special Features include The Making of American Hercules about Babe Ruth, and his rare player interviews with historic game footage. Ted Williams Hall of Fame induction is included. Saving the best for last, there are several extended interviews with various experts and archival footage from the Major League Baseball Film and Video Archive.

All in all, I discovered information I had never know about these four legends. Babe Ruth cut his teeth as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. He developed in to a lethal opponent in both his arm and bat, helping Boston win a couple of World Series titles. Lou Gehrig was an Ivy League student and played baseball while going to school at Columbia. Ted Williams left baseball twice in order to fight for the Marines.  He was a jet pilot during both World War II and the Korean War. Hank Aaron went unnoticed as player for the Milwaukee Braves, yet he broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record when the team transferred to Atlanta.

Ice Sculpture Christmas

Ice Sculpture Christmas DVD-fSometimes it is just nice to sit down and watch a new movie that is greatly appreciated by so many others who enjoy Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” program. More than raising my expectations, I had a wonderful time watching Ice Sculpture Christmas as a whimsical movie. I found viewing the original ice sculptures in the movie was the most enjoyable part.

Directed by David Mackay, the movie follows a young woman, Callie Shaw, played by Rachel Boston. Her unwavering childhood dream is to be an accomplished chef. Trying to get her foot in the door, she nabbed a lowly job at a country club washing dishes with the hope of working her way up the ladder where the real cooking happens – in the kitchen. David Manning, played by David Alpay, is a well-off childhood friend, who works for his father. The two meet up again by chance, which is an entertaining scene to watch.

The movie cuts back and forth from their childhood friendship to their present budding romance, which makes the movie pleasurable and attractive. The well-rounded cast adds more to Callie and David’s story, and shows how David lives a much different lifestyle than Callie in regards to money and success. He never abandons his feelings for Callie even though she struggles with her own financial problems while trying to work her way into the country club kitchen.

Without her consent David enters Callie in a two person team competition for an ice sculpting contest. He knows she is more than capable to add her talents. Her self-esteem is heightened, yet David is not that talented or helpful with sculpting. Callie senses there could be a problem, particularly when Callie finds out who her direct competition happens to be.

Of course, the ending is predictable, but that makes Hallmark movies so much fun to watch. You can always count on a happily ever after ending.

Four Warriors

FOUR WARRIORS 3d DVDDirected by Phil Hawkins and written by its star, Christopher Dane, the movie looks pretty good and is shot skillfully with clean camera work by David Meadows. Even the sets are decent and realistic as many of the scenes were filmed in the woods, and the locations come across convincingly. The cast did a fine job of acting, and that is about as far as the movie goes on a positive note.

The story is about four men who embark on a journey to fight the evil forces that threaten their land and loved ones. As fantasy and adventure collide, four battle-weary Crusaders take on a mission to track down an evil predator, foretold in an ancient prophecy, who has abducted all the men and children from a devastated village.

The obvious problem with Four Warriors is the low-budget production value because the movie is full of incomplete details or unbelievable make up and costumes. The characters are supposed to be battle-weary Crusaders, yet they look nothing like medieval fighters.  The actors are clean cut and fit, and look like a bunch of models attending a photo shot. The weapons are not authentic, looking truly fake, and the armor is way too dirt free and polished for the time period and situation.

The battles are extreme, but without the magical finesse needed to keep viewers interested throughout the story. The scenes never peak with ultimate threats of danger. The choreography of the battles missed their marks clearly, and it was way too obvious. The movie had demons that were not at all scary and looked too much like humans. The movie is being touted as similar to Games of Thrones meet Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, but I don’t see the resemblance at all, and a good reason to avoid this film.

Dragon Blade

Dragon BladeDirected by Daniel Lee, Dragon Blade is a fine example of the materialization of the growing motion picture market in China. The industry is so dominate in Asia that Western stars arrive on the scene in Chinese productions.  Like Dragon Blade, the movies are cultural dramas on a grand-scaled of historical epics.  Lee’s movie has done well as a moneymaker, gaining over $120 million in the China market.  The storyline is unique and pleasurable with Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody. Cusack and Brody appear out of place in the empire of men swinging swords and wearing sandals, whereas Chan does a fine job of martial arts and plays a familiar role.

The movie transports the story back to 48 B.C. where Huo An, played by Chan, is a well-intended and compassionate leader of the Silk Road Protection Squad. His squad comes across as a dedicated group. Huo protects and fights altruistically in order to hold harmony for the sanctioned Road.

Thereupon, Huo and his men are framed for gold smuggling and are banished to Wild Goose Gate. They are required to rebuild an entire city in two weeks or be put to death. Clearly an impossible task, something miraculous happens, and they connect up with a lost Roman army. Command by general Lucius, played by Cusack, is a scoundrel. He immediately picks a fight with Huo. After the brawl, they become fast friends with singing, parades, and drinking. Lucius confesses he is trying to avoid being captured by the Romans and has a sick boy, Publius, played by Joey Jozef. The boy is the lawful heir to the Roman throne, and his evil brother, Tiberious, played by Brody, is out to assassinate him. He recently just murdered their father, so we know he is serious. With that in mind, Lucius’ men and other local tribes along with Huo turn the city into a symbol of the peace. Something Huo has desired for most his life.

The visuals are not only majestic but also ambiguous. Seeing Chan in a sword fight with Cusack is conflicting. We are in Asia and here is a Westerner. It is intriguing but unreal for an epic. The $65 million budget availed gigantic spectacles where Lee effectively created a war-torn China during the Han Dynasty.

This is purely fictional with no regard for historical authenticity. True. The Romans and Asians shared commerce and the Silk Road, but nothing more. The many battle scenes are exceptional with the combination of Roman fighting techniques and traditional Chinese martial arts. The movie is invigorating while witnessing the development of a friendship between Huo and Lucius.

Overall, Dragon Blade is a movie worth seeing with Chan outshining his Western co-stars.