The Smurfs

The Smurfs Movie 2011When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world into New York City.

Starring:  Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mas, Sofia Vergara, and the voice talents of Jonathan Winters, Alan Cummings, Fred Armisen, Katy Perry, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin etc.

Rating:  PG

I just dare you not to walk around sing La La La La La La after reading this review. 

My family and I really enjoyed this movie.  It was a lot of fun to see these characters from my own youth be brought to life on the big screen.  The graphics were amazing.  The Smurfs were very realistic and the recreation of their village was surprisingly simple and yet charming at the same time.  The creators didn’t go over the top in cuteness in trying to recreate the Smurf homes so it almost felt like it would be totally reasonable to stumble upon this village in the forest. 

Of course, the real show stealer was Hank Azaria.  When I first became aware of Mr. Azaria as an actor, I have to be honest in saying that I found him to be annoying.  Of course, that just means what a great job he was doing.  Since then I have realized that this man wasn’t just a bit actor but a truly talented one.  His portrayal of Gargamel was bang on in my opinion while adding some fun and necessary humour to give the character an updated feel.

Having said all that, this movie is rated PG which is due mainly to mild rude humour and action.  Considering the action is no greater, in fact far less, than let’s say the Road Runner I don’t think it’s much of a concern.

It does make a number of mild jokes that very concerned parents might not like their children to be exposed to although it certainly went over my kids heads.  For example:  one Smurf stands over a furnace vent and the Smurf says the blast of air feels nice on his giblets.

It does contain magic and sorcery and Gargamel is obsessed with sucking out the Smurf’s essence.  Still, I didn’t have a problem letting my four year old watch this movie and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.

Have you seen the Smurfs? What did you think?

Buy Smurfs now on DVD or Blu-Ray in my Amazon Store.

Barbie: A Perfect Christmas


barbieBarbie and her sisters, Skipper, Stacie and Chelsea are headed for New York for the perfect Christmas.  When their plane is diverted due to an unexpected storm, the girls find themselves disappointed, far away from New York and their holiday dreams. In the remote town of Tannenbaum, they find shelter at a magical inn, where they make new friends and give the town the gift of song in exchange for the hospitality they receive. Following a series of magical experiences, the sisters soon realize that the joy of togetherness is all they need for a truly perfect Christmas.


Starring the voice talents of: Diana Kaarina, Jennifer Waris, Rachel Harrison, Nevada Brandt, Lauren Lavoie, Danielle Bessler, Ashlyn Drummond, Luca Vecchio, Maryke Hendrikse, Allie Feder, Aidan Drummond, Alistair Abell, Patricia Drake etc…


Rating:  G


To be Released on DVD on November 8th.


It just wouldn’t be Christmas without another Barbie Christmas movie. My girls were very excited when I told them we’d be watching Barbie’s A Perfect Christmas.

Well Barbie definitely didn’t disappoint with her usual stellar graphics and catchy music tunes.  All the Barbie movies tend to focus on storytelling through music but this one really seemed to be musically inclined as it seemed to break out into song constantly throughout the film.  The upbeat tunes sure got my girls’ attention as they couldn’t help but get up and dance around.  Especially when I played the Perfect Christmas music video for them later from the Special Features section.

While I have to admit that Barbie Christmas Carol was my favourite, I did enjoy this Barbie movie particularly as it has such a great message about Christmas.  The girls were after the perfect Christmas and felt that they wouldn’t get one now that their plans had been ruined.  They learned that Christmas is what you make it and a perfect Christmas can be as simple as just being together. 

This film keeps the wonder of Christmas alive with frequent glimpses of magic and the possibility of the realness of Santa Clause around every corner.  As far as parental concerns go, I had none watching this film.  There were no villains or bad guys at all.  The girls don’t always get along but underneath it all you know they love one another very much and they are working out their relationships continually.

Also included in the Special Features section are outtakes and a Barbie Camping with the Girls short clip. Because if your girls are like mine, they just can’t get enough Barbie.

So I would definitely put this on your “Christmas Movies” to Watch list. If you are thinking of purchasing this film, it is available for pre-order on Amazon at a great deal of $13.99 for the DVD and the Blu-Ray for just $17.99 which is $5.00 off regular price. To buy the DVD on  Amazon click here or the Blu-Ray click here.

Megamind

The supervillain Megamind finally conquers his nemesis, the hero Metro Man... but finds his life pointless without a hero to fight.

Directed by Tom McGrath


Written by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons

Starring the voice talents of:  Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Jessica Schulte, Tom McGrath, Emily Nordwind, J. K. Simmons etc.


Rating PG for action and mild language.




Reminsicent of early Superman, Megamind is sent hurtling through space by his parents to escape the destruction of his planet.  Only in this twist, Metroman is also sent away by his parents and ends up landing in the lap of luxury on Earth.  Metroman is everything that Megamind is not and so Megamind gives up trying to be good and turns his rather large brain towards evil instead.  Although, one can't help but feel right from the get go that Megamind is not really evil at heart.

While I enjoyed this movie, I didn't think it was the greatest I'd seen in a while.  I felt the themes, especially the one of unrequited love, were a bit too mature for kids.  Granted my kids are under 8 and I have yet to learn what they will be interested in or are even capable of understanding at that age. I did appreciate the humour and as always loved Will Ferrell in his role as Megamind.  I was a bit disappointed not to hear more lines from Brad Pitt, mainly I think because it intrigued me that he was appearing in this type of film. 

Some of the dialogue was genuinely funny but even so both my husband and I started to drift off somewhere in the middle.  Granted, that could merely be due to the busy lives we lead or too much supper or maybe this movie is better seen in 3D in the Theatre than at home.  Still, given that the biggest issues of the film was the action, we felt okay with allowing our children to watch this film.  

Parental Concerns: 

Sex and Nudity:  Roxanne and Megamind (disguised as a different man) kiss.


Violence & Gore Comical violence; lots of fighting between Megamind and Superhero.

Profanity:  2 uses of freaking, 2 religious exclamations, Highway to Hell (song) played in background.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking Roxanne and Megamind (disguised as a different man) drink champagne
Frightening/Intense Scenes : A Character is thought to be killed and a skeleton is shown.
Titan declares that there is no Easter Bunny and there is no Tooth Fairy, which may upset younger viewers.


 
Our children did enjoy watching this film but like I said, I thought it was just okay.  While the movie was upbeat and well animated, the following day I had two sick kids at home and neither of them wanted to watch it again.  Hmm.

So what have you seen lately?

Despicable Me

When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds himself profoundly changed by the growing love between them.


Written by Ken Daurio (screenplay), Sergio Pablos (story) and Cinco Paul (screenplay)
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Starring the voice talents of:  Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Julie Andrews, Russell Brand, Will Arnet, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Jemaine Clement, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud etc.

Rating:  PG for rude humour and mild action

 
I had been really looking forwad to the release of this DVD and have to say that I got a real kick out of it. I especially appreciated the dark humour brought to this film as much as I enjoyed the sweet comedy of the orphans and slapstick zaniness of the minions.  I love Steve Carrell's take on the Gru character and can't help but try to mimic his accent around the house. Julie Andrew's plays her part so well, that I had to re think the entire movie through to figure out what character she played.  Once I knew she was in it, it wasn't hard to figure out she played Gru's mother but the fact that I missed it the first time around was something since I'm usually dead on picking out voices. 

The theme while certainly not a new one is reminiscent of the old Spy vs. Spy comics.  It also plays on the old standard theme of bad guy turns good.  Still, there is so much going on in this film, twists and turns of the plot, that it keeps even the adults interested right to the end.  Your heart warms to the plight of the three little orphans and can easily sympathize with Gru and his desire to be successful even it is at being bad. 

Having said all that, lets discuss the parental concerns. The rating for this movie is PG.  Now given the level of violence in the old Bugs Bunny and Road Runner shows not to mention many more contemporary kids shows to date, I can't help but feel it's somewhat over rated.  I did allow my children (7, 5 and 3.5) to watch this film and can't say I regret doing so. 

I did talk to one mom who said she didn't like the movie very much because what stood out to her was all the lying the characters did to one another and I have to say that is a valid point. Gru tells a lot of lies to adopt the orphans, lies to the girls and lies to his helper.  Even Dr. Nefarious lies to get the girls sent back to the orphanage. 

So those that are more desirous of sheltering their children should be aware of the following concerns:

Violence and Gore:  Mild slapstick humor throughout. A lot of the gags are derived from the unusual and dangerous surroundings that they are now living in. IE, a child steps into an iron maiden which then closes on her. What looks to be blood is seen leaking from inside and the other girls are horrified.  When the iron maiden is re-opened it turns out her juice box was pierced and leaking.

Profanity:  Very mild language; "fart", "butt", etc.


Frightening/Intense Scenes

There is a chase scene near the end of the film. Girls lives are endangered. 

Adoption or Group Homes are portrayed in a negative light.  Children are forced to sell cookies for the orphanage and those that fail are put in the box of shame.  Maybe somewhat disconcerting to children about to enter into foster care system.  But not a new theme by any means. 

Sex and Nudity:   Minions draw a picture of Gru sitting on a toilet.  At one point the Minions are sitting on a photocopier taking copies of their butts.

As always, if you have concerns about a movie, my best recommendation to you is to pre-screen it before showing it to your children.  Time and time again we've been glad we did.

What have you watched lately?

Timmy Time: Timmy Steals the Show

Don't you just love it when they come out with a cartoon that you enjoy watching as much as the kids? One of those shows for me is Shaun the Sheep. I just love everything about it. The characters, the non-dialogue approach to storytelling, the claymation. Obviously, my kids just love it too. They will watch the same episode over and over again. I think the lack of dialogue really forces the kids to pay attention to whats going on onscreen. Nobody is laying out the story for them, they have to watch and figure out the clues as to what's happening. Every time they watch it, it's like they notice something different.


One of the lovable characters of the farm is Timmy, a baby lamb, who gets into all sorts of mishief. He's absolutely adorable, complete with sou sou. Well the Oscar winning Aardman Studios felt Timmy deserved his own show, hence Timmy is off to pre-school in his own series.

For the first time Timmy Time is being released on February 22nd in Timmy Time: Timmy Steals the Show.

"Timmy Time follows the adventures of Timmy, a little lamb with a lot to learn as he enters preschool. Fans of Aardman’s hit children’s series Shaun the Sheep will recognize Timmy as the baby lamb on the farm who is frequently drawn into all kinds of chaotic adventures by the mischievous older sheep. Used to having his way by being “the only lamb in the flock,” Timmy is now heading to preschool to graze on some important life lessons about playing nicely with others, namely his fellow classmates of the furry, feathered and spiky types."

Haven't seen or heard of Timmy Time? Here's a clip. (Note audio wouldn't work for me but maybe it will for you. Let me know if it doesn't so I can switch the clip. Thanks.)


video

Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale

Barbie:  A Fashion Fairy Tale

"Join Barbie™ in a colorful, modern-day fairytale filled with fashion, friends and fun! Barbie™ and her dog, Sequin™, jet off to visit her aunt’s amazing fashion house in Paris, and much to her surprise it’s about to be shut down forever. After she discovers three enchanting Flairies™ with sparkle-magic powers, Barbie™ comes up with a brilliant idea to save the business. She even inspires Alice, a shy fashion designer, and together they create a dazzling runway fashion show. Barbie™ shows that magic happens when you believe in yourself."

Feature the voice talents of:  Kelly Sheridan and.... to be added later.

Rated:  G

Yes, what can I tell you but it's another Barbie movie set to be released on DVD September 14, 2010.  This could be the reason for the surprising lack of information online I can discover about the details of this film. Sure Barbie.com has a great site informing me of the story line and characters etc... but nowhere can I discover who actually stars in this movie behind the characters.  I can only assume that Kelly Sheridan continues to be the speaking voice for Barbie as she has filled that role since 2001.

My kids loved this movie.  It could only be due to the fabulous colours, adorable Flairies and animals, upbeat music and of course, an over abundance of sparkle.  The storyline was well done, simple and easy to follow, a tad bit predictable but still a good watch.  The fact that the kids asked to watch this movie 3 times over the weekend, including my son I might add, is enough to prove to me that this was a good story.

I loved that the so called bad people in this film weren't really that bad after all, they actually had the graciousness to recognize the error of their ways and apologize for their behaviour at the end.  Off the top of my head, I can't recall a single Barbie movie where the villain of the piece apologize and reconciled with the main character.  I think that's a great message being delivered right there!

Along with the apology comes the standard message of believing in oneself and trying your best and just being you no matter what people think. Let's face it we can tell them this ourselves but really it helps having a cool icon reaffirming it.  I was able to remind her of this message when she told me someone made fun of her hairstyle at school.  Did she like?  Yes.  Then that's all that matters. 

Of course, if you're a cynical kid (or a cynical mom)that message might only seem to ring true if you were wealthy and lived the Hollywood lifestyle that Barbie does.  Fortunately, it goes right over my oldest daughter's head that it requires a lot of money to jet set off to Paris, France at the drop of a hat. 

This movie is rated G and I think that's an apt rating.  I will mention two things that might concern very careful parents.  One is that in the opening scene Barbie plays herself starring in a play when these peas come into the scene dressed like zombies singing a song.  It's pretty mild graphically but if you're opposed to Halloween or Zombies whatsoever then I'd skip the first five minutes. 

The second scene is near the end where Barbie and Ken kiss.  That doesn't bother me because we have stressed to our children that they won't be dating until they are much older etc. but again some parents might have an issue with this. 

Video Stores on the Verge of Extinction?

As most of you know, my husband and I own a video store. You may also recall that I owned another video store with my SIL which we sold last April. So I have, in effect, been in the movie business for the past 6 years.


Move Gallery has recently closed it's rental business and is now in the process of liquidating their stock. I am informed that Blockbuster is about to die as well and even that Roger's wouldn't be doing half so well if they didn't sell cell phones at their locations as well.

The demise of all these top video rental franchises has prompted a series of news reports all in which discuss the demise of the video rental store business. A news report aired today entitled "Why Would You Go to A Video Store?". The premise being why would you leave the comfort of your own home to travel the short distance to your local video store. (Okay some of you live in rural areas but a lot of you if not most live in urban areas). If we were all about convenience from the comfort of our homes then why don't we stay home and make our own coffee instead of going to Tim Horton's or Starbucks.

What these reports do not discuss is the cost of PPV and VOD. While we have been in a recession of the past year and a half, have they cut their costs? No way. Not only are their new release movies more expensive than a rental in my store, they also charge more if you want it in HD. Not to mention, they only offer the top new releases. While those of you in the US may benefit from companies like Netflix etc, those companies are not available to us in Canada and I can't imagine why you'd want to fill out your selection and then wait for titles to arrive in the mail. Maybe if I lived way out in the boonies, it would be convenient.

With rising gas costs it seems that everyone around us are raising their prices, from the pop guy to the candy man to the chip guy. However, if we raise our prices barely 25cents we'd have a mutiny on our hands. Change our programs or day specials a wee bit and literally customers have left slamming down their movies and walking out. They always think that there is a better deal down the road and some times there is but most often we feel we're pretty reasonable. We're not getting rich, we're supporting our family... barely.

Still the perception out there is that with VOD and PPV out there that it is only a matter of time before stores like mine are closing. Indeed at the pig roast this weekend, I was questioned by two different sets of people throughout the afternoon as to whether or not we could actually make a living running a video store. I thought this bordered on rudeness. After all, I wouldn't go up to any one in construction and ask how much money they made, whether they could support their family.

What people don't realize is that VOD, PPV, Netflix and downloads are only a small portion of the multibillion dollar industry. Even if their portion of the revenues added up to as much as 5%, it still leaves plenty of room for DVD sales and rentals for the rest of us. And believe me, they are not attracting more than 5% of the market at this point.

People also don't realize that the power behind things like VOD, PPV and Netflix are movie studios who want to cut out the middle man as much as possible. In fact, they are constantly discussing ideas like providing all new releases to Blockbuster and VOD 30 days before they allow the rest of us to rent them. By the time, I would be allowed to rent the movies, I might as well save my money. Why would they do that when Video Stores provide them with the biggest revenues even over and above what even Walmart generates? I just don't get it.

I am not completely naive. I realize that eventually we will get to the point where everything is done online and that even one day we won't even refer to it is as being online (it's not for nothing that I've watched 1984), it will just always be there. I just don't think it will be as fast as people say. If it was free, maybe but so long as we are having to pay to be online, pay for cable, pay to order movies, I think we have quite a few more years still. I think it's those who are really into ordering or downloading movies (often illegally) that spin up this whole hype thing that the mom and pops video stores are dying.

So why are places like Movie Gallery and Blockbuster suffering? One, they are publicly traded companies. Once you go public you have to pay presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, stockholders etc. It becomes extremely expensive for them to run. These companies are extremely top heavy and when trouble hits they aren't able to make the cuts necessary. Add to that that it is often difficult to keep stores running well when they are not owner run. Most successful business have their owners involved in the day to day business. I have seen more businesses go under because of an absent owner relying heavily on a manager who doesn't always have your best interests at heart. Think about it. How many times have you gone into one of these stores and been disappointed by the quality of service and the 3 or 4 giggling teenagers gossiping behind the counter who could care less about helping you. I'm not saying all stores are like that but many are.

Then they eliminated late fees. That was a huge mistake. Think about it, you tell your customers that it's okay to keep your movies out late, you won't be charged until 30 days go by and then they will charge your credit card the price of the movie. Okay. you keep your movie out for 29 days, take it back and all is forgiven. Tell me how much potential revenue did they just lose on that one movie that was unavailable for rent? Sure, BB and MG have tons of copies but only of the top new movies. So if they had 100 copies and you can bet they have an average of 2000 customers or more going through their store a week, what happens to the other 1900 customers who wanted to see the big new movie?

What it we were to go to the public library and take out as many books as we wanted and just kept them for as however long we wanted, no charge. The library would be empty.

Yet people constantly bitch at us about our high late fees (we charge $1.00 a day) and how MG was so much better. Yeah, and they went out of business. Then people like to make snide comments of how we make all our money off them being late and how we must just rake it in because they are so bad at returning movies. Um yeah, that's right. Would you like a tour through my mansion or even take a look at my $9.99 fake weddinng ring from Walmart because I can't afford to get my real ones sized, or how about that wonderful staycation we're taking this year. Don't even get me started on people who say they've returned movies when they actually didn't only they argue with you, swear at you and then 3 days later show up with the movie and no apology.

The point of this whole post is to make people aware that there is more to these companies going under than just a decline in rentals. Part of a successful business these days means you have to be diversified and we try to do that by bringing in movie related products and electronics for sale. It's true that if we want to stay afloat we need to turn our business into an "entertainment destination" rather than just a mere video rental store.

So if you're tempted to order PPV or VOD just remember that sometimes it's better to have spent the money upfront than to get a whopping big bill at the end of the month. Also, don't forget that the little video store around the corner is some guy or gal just trying to make a living. Cut them a break and give them a chance to get to know you by name. Going out to the local store becomes more than just an errand, it becomes an opportunity to socialize and you never know who you might run into.

What do you think? Do you VOD or PPV?