Inception (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.
Length: 148 minutes
Grade: ACBA+=A
Budget: $160 million
Box Office: $853 million (293 U.S., 533 Intl., 27 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight, Prestige, Batman Begins, and Memento)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page
With: Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine, Tom Berenger

Striving to clear his name and return to see his children, a dream infiltrator takes on an impossibly difficult job of corporate espionage.

Entertainment Value: A
I’m not even sure I need to explain this one for anyone who’s seen it. As a simple action movie, this is fantastic. As a psychological exploration or a cinematic construction or an enigma, it’s brilliant. For me, Christopher Nolan is the top of the food chain in modern filmmaking after this and Dark Knight. And the thing that puts this ahead of Avatar is that long, long, long after the movie, you’re still thinking about it and the plot rather than complaining about how weak the plot underneath all the imagery really was.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C-, Language B
There’s mild profanity and the plot revolves around the use of sedatives/drugs to achieve stable dream states. There’s no sexuality at all. Violence will be the main concern, with lots of action, including action sequences with gunfire and people being killed. PG-13 is just right.

Significant Content: B
This is a VERY difficult one to assign, and the reason for it is that fishing the meaning out of this movie is a bit like trying to remove an elusive bit of eggshell from the white. But the obvious messages about guilt and repression and the way ideas can have restorative/therapeutic value is good. Also, dreams are notoriously difficult to separate from reality.

Artistic/Thought Value: A+
If you’ve read many of my reviews, you may have noticed there are several ways a movie can get a high art score. It can be a really cleverly constructed film, it can have high educational/illustrative value, or it can be truly beautiful. In addition to these, this is a film which, unlike any other I’ve seen, will compel you to think about it again and again and again because you want to solve it. For ongoing argument/discussion value, there just isn’t another film comparable to this. Witness some of the online forums I have listed below. But don’t read them unless you’ve seen the movie already. This movie deserves an A for sheer intricacy, a fact attested to by Nolan’s waiting to do this for nine years until he’d mastered filmmaking better with the two Batman movies. Also, the skill necessary to create the last 45 minutes or so and keep all the levels going in our awareness is its own masterpiece of filmmaking.

Discussion Questions:
~What does it mean?
~Have you ever had trouble telling a dream from reality?
~Has a dream ever had a lingering effect even after you woke up?
If this reality were a dream, how would you know?
~Have you ever thought of this life as a kind of dream from which we all wake up when we die? What does the Bible have to say about this notion?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
Unlike most movies, now that I’ve watched this 2+ times, I have to admit that you could select almost any of it for poignancy value. Certainly the elevator sequence and Mol’s invitation to Dom to join her would qualify. But so many others are worth listing that it’s hard to pick any, really.
Overall Grade: A
As a mere action movie, this is outstanding. As a puzzle to be solved with psychological/philosophical themes, it’s a treasure trove. I didn’t love it fully after the first viewing because I couldn’t solve it, but this made me go back and back which has drawn me into the abyss, happily. Dark City, The Matrix, and now Inception.
Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!
Below, I have some theories, etc. for those who have seen the movie and want to “figure it out.”
2. Odd things to consider for any theory.
~Saito’s “miracle rescue” in Mombasa.
~Why doesn’t Fischer recognize Saito, who is supposedly a massively powerful competitor of his father’s company?
~Ariadne’s amazing initial adeptness at dreamworld manipulation.
~Saito interrupting Dom’s totem test after his trial with the new sedative and his vision of Mol out the window thereafter.
~Saito so easily and quickly just buying an entire airline.
~The brass top being Mol’s secret, Dom’s Totem, and in Saito’s possession at the beginning.
~The children have neither aged nor wear different clothes in the end scene compared with the scene when he leaves them after Mol’s death.
~Where is Dom’s mother, who is supposedly watching the kids?
~Why does Saito have the power to fix all of Dom’s problems with one phone call?
~What do the various looks at Dom during the airport scene represent?
~Who, really, are the thugs chasing Dom in Mombasa, and why are they unable to hit him with so many bullets? Whose subconscious is fighting back, if at all?
~The impact of Mol’s claimed threat letter to the police and the three psychiatrists certifying her as sane.
~The fact that the audience is not given a totem of our own to be able to verify what’s “real” in the movie and what’s a dream level. See “Dissecting,” above.
~Ariadne being a name from Greek Mythology who helped Theseus return from the Minotaur’s maze with a ball of red thread after slaying him.
~According to Nolan’s rules, any scene with an abrupt, inexplicable start is a dream.

3. My theory
Having read all the above websites and pondered the movie a lot (my wife would say too much), I have my own theory which none of the others seem to have seen. There’s a probable version and a totally wacked version.

My tame version:
The entire movie is an inception by Michael Caine in real life against Dom (his son) to get him to release the guilt he feels about the death of Mol when the two of them were first experimenting with Caine’s real world dream exploration techniques. The other players are all confederates acting to pull a con on Dom, including Fischer. This ploy ultimately works and Dom is freed from his guilt to love his children again. Caine is the dreamer, which is why he doesn’t ever go to any of the lower levels. In addition to how this answers the above issues, it also explains Michael Caine’s very odd line to Dom at the Paris lecture hall, “Dom, come back to reality,” his presence at the end and the top not dropping, and his (actual in real life) revelation to the media that he invented the dream, listed on Wikpedia.

My crazy version:
Everything is mostly as I just said, except there’s one major twist: Mol isn’t dead in real life. When she killed herself, it was actually still dreamworld and HE wouldn’t believe it. So the real problem keeping Dom from waking up is that he has all this guilt and he has become convinced that dreamworld is reality (like the Indian group-dreamers, whom we are told are experiencing a reality just as real as the “real” one by the cryptic old man). This would explain Mol’s ability to show up in the dreams basically at will (and why she moves down to limbo when shot in the snow level, perhaps). So Mol and Cain in real life are trying to get Dom to come back to reality together.

Final thoughts:
If the solution isn’t either of these, then the whole movie is itself a dream or else the thing has no “solution,” which are sort of the same, actually. I don’t dismiss these possibilities, I just hope this isn’t it. I’d be disappointed. Tom Brown is convinced that Inception 2 will answer our questions about Inception 1. I doubt there will be an Inception 2, personally. One frustration with this movie is that no one solution ever quite seems fully satisfying, and you have to watch the entire 150 minutes again after any tweaking to be sure that everything fits. I love the movie, but I don’t have the College-era time to do this enough to satisfy my curiosity. Plus, I’d be a bit heartbroken if I couldn’t solve it, which is why I’d almost rather believe I have without wanting to find out I haven’t (either by watching it again or by Nolan telling “the truth” about it). So in reality, I’m less concerned about the reality of Inception since I’m comfortable with my take on it, or my dream about it, if you prefer. =)

Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

Rated: PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language.
Length: 109 minutes
Grade: B+B+BB+=B+
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $225 million (63 U.S., 152 Intl., 10 DVD)

Written by: Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal (Flicka, Mona Lisa Smile, Planet of the Apes, Mighty Joe Young, Mercury Rising, Beverly Hillbillies, Star Trek VI, and Superman IV), Matt Lopez (Race to Witch Mountain, Bedtime Stories, and The Wild), Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard (Prince of Persia Sands of Time, The Uninvited)
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure 1+2, The Kid, Phenomenon, While You Were Sleeping, and Cool Runnings)
Starring: Nicholas Cage and Jay Baruchel
With: Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, and Monica Bellucci.

In 740 AD, when Merlin was betrayed and killed, one of his students imprisoned herself and Merlin’s arch-enemy Morgana le Fay inside a nesting doll. Now, the long-lost descendant of Merlin, the “Prime Merlinian,” must learn magic from Balthazar Blake (another of Merlin’s students) to save the world from the betrayer who wants to release Morgan and subjugate all humanity. Unfortunately for him, he’s just a nerdy physics student.

Entertainment Value: B+
This was fun. There’s nothing “great” about this movie, but it’s plenty of good, mostly clean wizards and witches action frivolity with some PG romance and sarcastic humor. My boys have been watching it almost every day since we saw it over a week ago, which means it has that classic Disney appeal to younger kids. Having grown up a mythology and Middle Ages fan (yes I played Dungeons & Dragons), I thought it was thoroughly entertaining. I will say one thing I wonder about. In The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, Monica Bellucci plays the wife of the Merovingian. In Sorcerer’s Apprentice, she waits for her lover Balthasar to discover the Prime Merlinian. Are all Monica Bellucci films destined to have a long-named character that starts with M and ends with –ian? Yeah, it was probably funnier inside my head.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B, Language A
Isn’t it great for a kids movie to be safe enough for kids to watch? At least for this one, you know there’s only one thing to be concerned about: violence. There are some killings and plenty of sorcery/witchcraft magic and action peril (car chases, giant dragons, fireballs and plasma blasts, etc.). Now, I come from a tradition which thinks that fantasy fighting and violence is perfectly normal for kids, so I had no problem letting my boys (6 and 4) watch this. However, Common Sense Media says PG-9. So, I think it’s fine, but at least now you know what to be aware of.

Significant Content: B
Physics is really just the precursor of magic, which adds mental powers to natural science. Nevertheless, magic (or physics) without love will be empty and unbeautiful. Evil people refuse to submit to others and only serve themselves. Good masters serve the student but evil masters use up the student for their own purposes. Evil must be dealt with, it cannot be ignored. Everyone wants to be normal and have a relaxing life, but the burden of great talents is great responsibility.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
It’s not so much for thought value as it is for artistic rendering. This film has all sorts of homages in all the right places, most notably the design of the studio and the wonderful mop scene. There’s also the Star Wars reference, but my personal favorite was the adaptation of the scene from Sword in the Stone where Merlin and Mim are dueling back and forth by upgrading what monster they become just like the car chase scene here.

Discussion Questions:
~In the opening scene, Merlin tells Morgana that they are but servants of the magic, but she replies that she is no one’s servant. Does his view represent the idea of stewardship? What does her response show about her?
~When Dave challenges Balthasar for not being a good mentor, he makes a distinction between a mentor and a master. What’s the difference, and why is it important? What does our culture think of the idea of having a master? How is this relevant to Christianity? Do you tend to think of Jesus as your mentor or as your master?
~What are the differences between being one of the Morganians and one of the Merlinians?
~Do you believe that people are capable of doing magic or any sort of psychic powers if they learned to use more of their minds/brains?
~Given the Bible’s stern warnings against witchcraft, do you believe that myths and fables (or comic books) with characters doing spells are always a problem for Christians?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Dragon fighting
~Tesla tower serenade.
~The mops.
~The end battle.
Overall Grade: B+
This is fun and entertaining for adults and kids. Mine have been watching it over and over since we got it.

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Rated: PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity.
Length: 133 minutes
Grade: DCDB=C
Budget: $60 million
Box Office: $215 million (81 U.S., 121 Intl., 13 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Ryan Murphy (Running with Scissors and TV like Glee, Nip/Tuck, and Popular), based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Starring: Julia Roberts.
With: Billy Crudup, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, and Javier Bardem.

A journalist goes through a midlife crisis when she realizes that the life she’s chosen for herself doesn’t even seem to have her in it. She divorces her husband and goes on a bodily, spiritual, relational journey to Italy, India, and Bali.

Entertainment Value: D
This was soooo disappointing. And the weird thing is that I wanted to like it and even found in going back over the sound clips that there’s actually quite a lot of interesting material in the movie. For starters, it’s way overwritten and feels terribly fake and contrived as a result. But more than this, it’s just tragically boring, inspite of having so many interesting scenes and insights. She is told by her Balinese mentor to smile with her liver (or kidney, I can’t remember which), but the movie itself doesn’t have much smile to it at all. And no, contrary to what you might anticipate, it wasn’t the silly Eastern religious stuff that threw me off the scent on this one. I actually thought it had one of the most touching moments when she first prayed to God.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C+, Sex/Nudity C, Violence A-, Language C
PG-13 is right. The stuff that might bother you is language, which is never awful, but sort of regularly medium bad. There are several sexual scenes, mostly implied, and only some rear male nudity. There’s a fair amount of alcohol, including some drunkenness. There’s one conversation about something awful almost happening.

Significant Content: D
This is a hard one to grade because, as I hinted at above, although there are plenty of interesting things to comment or ponder, the overall message of the movie is profoundly dumb. Here’s the short version. When you’re immature, don’t make romance your idol or else you’ll be sucked in and annihilated by it. But the goal is to accomplish personal culinary, emotional, spiritual, and relational maturity so that you can go back to romance as an idol and it will finally satisfy you. Another way to say it: having a variety of ways of having happiness means that you’re pleasure portfolio is diversified enough to handle the risk of adding romance to your life.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
There’s actually quite a bit to talk about here, and I think the best way to do that is to give the main ideas of the movie in the discussion questions.

Discussion Questions:
~For each of the following messages from this movie, discuss whether you think they are correct or not and how they might apply to your life:
~~~All suffering is relational suffering. We can endure anything else, but relationships have a special way of devastating us.
~~~Romantic relationships are very much like any addictive drug, especially when we are seeking our identity and approval from someone else.
~~~Sometimes, for love, you have to lose your balance in life in order to preserve it.
~~~If you set out to find joy in life, learn to treat everything that happens as part of the universe’s effort to give it to you.
~~~God dwells in you, as you, not as some fantasy ideal of human behavior.
~~~Ruin is the road to transformation.
~~~Having a child is like getting a face tattoo: you kind of want to be committed.

~Given the realities of most people’s lives, does the adventure shown in this movie seem plausible for others who might be experiencing alienation or angst?
~If Liz had been who she was at the end of this movie back in the beginning, could her marriage have worked? Why couldn’t she go on this journey with him instead of leaving him?
~How might your view of this movie have been different if Liz had pursued a Christian religious experience rather than the ones she does? What advice would you give her as a Christian? Do we have to become solid, mature people before we can safely fall in love with Jesus?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The opening story about the Cambodian refugees needing relationship advice.
~Muffin top pizza
~Praying to God about her marriage.
~Richard Jenkins telling her his own story. How does your view of him shift after this scene?

Overall Grade: C
A mostly disappointing (and very long) Oprah’s book club effort to show women how to have meaning in their lives again through food, spirituality, and romance.

Babies (2010)

Rated: PG for cultural and maternal nudity throughout.
Length: 79 minutes
Grade: C+BCD=C
Budget: Unknown, perhaps $500,000
Box Office: $11 million (7 U.S., 2 Intl., 2 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Thomas Balmes and Alain Chabat
Starring: Four mothers, four babies, and some walk-ons.

This is a documentary, much like any nature film, showing a year in the life of four babies in San Francisco, Tokyo, Namibia, and Mongolia.

Entertainment Value: C+
Okay, who doesn’t like babies, right? Our boys loved parts of it. It was very human, and part of the point is that you catch yourself thinking, “Oh, gosh, that isn’t good for a baby.” At the same time, the problem with this movie is primarily one of missed opportunity. Instead of just four babies, they should have done maybe six or eight. Also, the only babies that were really interesting were the Namibian and Mongolian ones. Tokyo and San Francisco are boringly similar and are ones I’m already familiar with. I would have loved to see babies from Mexico, Peru, Cuba, India, Iran, or Indonesia. The other missed opportunity is that even as they were showing us too many Western (Tokyo essentially counts as this) practices, they chose to show both too much and too little of the others. For one thing, the African baby (and the Mongolian, as I remember) had no diapers. So, how does this work with a baby? The one scene they did show was frustratingly brief. As a parent, I’m curious. The one wonderful choice they made was to forego a narrator and just show. I liked that.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence A, Language A
The only thing you’ll want to know is that there’s lots of female nudity in this movie, but I’ll be honest to tell you that there’s absolutely nothing lurid or erotic about it. There’s also some baby part nudity, but clearly this is normal and expected.

Significant Content: C
If there’s a message here, and I want to stress that I don’t really think there is, the message is that babies all over the world are raised in all sorts of different ways, but they all turn out okay. Even though the environment of a baby looks horrendous to you, it works for them.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
The reasons I can’t grant this a high art grade I’ve already stated above. Plus, it raised but didn’t answer questions I was interested in, such as where are the fathers in Africa and Mongolia?

Discussion Questions:
~Did any parts of this movie make you feel uncomfortable? Which ones? Do you think your discomfort is legitimate or merely cultural? If these mothers aren’t worried about their kids, is it intrusive of you to be?
~How much does this movie shift your attitudes about what is necessary for raising a healthy child?
~Were you glad this movie had no narration, or do you think it would have helped?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The obvious abundance of books in the San Francisco house compared with elsewhere.
~Flies all over the people in Africa.
~Dragging the cat by the collar.
~Shaving the baby’s head with a knife.
~Roaming dogs coming up to the baby.
~Girl frustrated with the stackable toy
~Cleaning the face with milk.
Overall Grade: C
I was really eager to see this, and you wouldn’t believe how much effort I invested to get a copy. In the end, I was mostly disappointed, especially because of how much more interesting this film could easily have been. If only they had chosen more and/or better cultures to feature.

Knight and Day (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language.
Length: 109 minutes
Grade: ACBD=A-
Budget: $117 million
Box Office: $260 million (76 U.S., 184 Intl.)

Written by: Patrick O’Neill (First Script)
Directed by: James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, Identity, Kate & Leopold, Girl Interrupted, Cop Land, Heavy)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz
With: Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, and Paul Dano.

June Havens is an ordinary citizen who gets dragged into the dangerous and action-packed world of espionage by being on the wrong plane.

Entertainment Value: A
We were more than pleasantly surprised by this. The action and plot of the movie were actually the least compelling thing here. What really makes this movie work is the combination of charm and humor by Cruise and the deliberate choice to simultaneously mock action movies while being an over-the-top ridiculous action movie. For instance, at vital moments in the plot where you can’t see how it could possibly turn out, they don’t even bother to show you and just move to the next scene somehow. Every time, I laughed.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence C-, Language C-
There’s a lot of action and killing, although not a ton of blood. There are only mild hints at sexuality. The language is, sadly, one F and a couple S, but totally unnecessary. A couple of times, someone is drugged, usually for their own good. PG-13 is right, although I wouldn’t quibble with someone who said R-15.

Significant Content: B
What I loved about this movie was the presentation of a man as competent, witty, reliable, devoted, skilled, kind, and charming. I felt like I was watching a very modernized Robin Hood type character. For all the negative portrayals of men in movies and on TV, seeing something like this was truly refreshing, a throwback to bygone days of debonair and dashing leading men. And, in a way, there’s almost a depiction of Christ and the Christian here, albeit I’m probably the only one who sees it. At first, she doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into and doesn’t want him. But at every step, he’s protecting her. And eventually, she learns to love the adventure and trust him so much that she puts herself in jeopardy to entice him back out to her.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
I don’t think anyone is going to offer this as a keen source of philosophical insights. It’s just absurd, light fun.

Discussion Questions:
~Why do you think leading men in movies are not like this most of the time anymore? Were we a healthier society when this sort of man was consistently shown as the ideal?
~One of the key moments in this movie involves a sort of crisis of faith. How do you make decisions about whom to trust when you aren’t sure? Who in your life will you give the benefit of the doubt to when the evidence is against them? How much evidence? In what ways was June dilemma similar to our own with respect to Christ?
~In what ways is this movie a good Christian allegory? In what ways not?
~What do you think of all the killing that happens in this movie?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The plane sequence.
~Lunch with Rodney.
~On the deserted island.
~In the hotel in Salzburg. When Cruise says, “That hurt more than I thought it would,” what is happening?
Overall Grade: A-
Take the premise of Killers, wrap it with the action of Mission Impossible, and flavor the whole thing with the debonair and sardonic humor of The Adventures of Robin Hood or Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Last Airbender, The (2010)

Rated: PG for fantasy action violence.
Length: 103 minutes
Grade: CB+B-C=C
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $ million (131 U.S., 187 Intl., 13 DVD)

Written and Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (Devil, The Happening, Lady in the Water, The Village, Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense)
Starring: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, and Nicola Peltz

Reborn into his current form as a young boy, the Avatar is the only one who can successfully communicate with the spirit world and manipulate all of the elements (air, earth, water, and fire), but he’s never been trained how. Now, the overgrown and evil Fire Nation has set out to take over the land, and an unlikely band of rebels must help the Avatar become his destiny and stop them.

Entertainment Value: C
M. Night Shyamalan’s career has really faltered. His early movies (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and The Village) were masterpieces. Since then, nothing but awful, frustrating movies. (Although I’ve heard good things about Devil.) This is a movie which was a big hit with our 6 and 4-year-old, but that’s mostly because of the cool effects and action sequences. They like shiny, I require shiny AND solid. It was painfully poor writing and acting in many parts, the sort of hackneyed result of trying to turn one thing (a successful three-year animated TV series) into another (a big-budget movie with live characters made by a different creative team). It also suffers from Shyamalan not being sure whether he’s making a war film, a relationship film, a martial arts film, or a religious drama. So he winds up making about one fourth of each of them, which amounts to cinematic gruel in the end. Nevertheless, the reason I’ve given it a C is because it is fairly fun, the kids will like it, and it’s either harmless or virtuous thematically.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A-, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B+, Language A
In one scene, people drink what may or may not be alcoholic. Language and sex are squeaky clean, which is very refreshing to see. The violence is the only issue, and it’s mostly pretty banal. There are only two deaths, one a self-sacrifice handled quite gently, and the other a battle barely shown. This is properly rated PG.

Significant Content: B-
This is going to go against the grain of what I would expect from most Christian reviewers, but that’s never stopped me before, has it? The overt aspects of this movie look bad: telekinetic powers, psychic communication with dragon spirits, and generally Buddhist-seeming philosophy. All true. Nevertheless, the true major themes here have to do with the dangers, arrogance, and power of technology (fire nation), the importance of humility, the necessity of restraint in using of power, and the ultimate goal of wielding power to redeem one’s enemies rather than merely vanquish them. There is a strong non-violence theme running through the movie, and one character even sacrifices her own life to give life back to another (albeit to a god-fish). Finally, there is a strong message about the dangers of pride and honor, which motivates one character to do very bad things to restore his name and reclaim the approval of his father. Also, mentors matter greatly, as they can turn good people toward evil or evil people toward good.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Again, there’s plenty you could talk about here with kids, who are the only ones who will really enjoy this. Reviewers have really trashed it. (Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 6 out of 100!) The one scene with Prince Zuko and Uncle Iroh is brilliant, where Zuko explains that he doesn’t care about girls because he’s so consumed with restoring his name.

Discussion Questions:
~The Avatar is continually reborn into new bodies. What does the Bible have to say about reincarnation?
~Why did Prince Zuko lose favor with his father? How does the desire to have it back twist his entire life around?
~Uncle Iroh chastises Commander Zhao for acting on his own. Why is it so important to cultivate a strong network of friends?
~Identify the mentors in this movie and discuss the influence they have on their tutees.
~Who in this movie has power and uses it in an evil way? Who in a good or loving way? Many movies have portrayed the users of technology as dangerous to evil. What do you think has been the moral influence of technology on the world?
Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Prince Zuko explaining his disgrace.
~Self-sacrifice at the pond.
~The end battle final resolution.
Overall Grade: C
In a world that never knew Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or the Narnia movies, this might have seemed effective. But those all do better what this does poorly. Nevertheless, clean and several good messages make it acceptable for kids despite the Eastern religious tone.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references.
Length: 112 minutes
Grade: B+CCB+=B
Budget: $85 million ($60 after tax rebates)
Box Office: $52 million (31 U.S., 16 Intl., 5 DVD)

Written by: Michael Bacall (First major movie), based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Directed by: Edgar Wright (First major movie)
Starring: Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
With: Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, and Jason Schwartzman

Scott Pilgrim, a graduate dating a high school girl and playing bass in a Toronto band, falls in love with an exotic new girl but discovers that he must defeat her seven evil exes in mortal combat to earn the right to date her.

Entertainment Value: B+
This was far more fun than I anticipated, almost an A in terms of comedy, unexpected plot, and just plain oddness. Based on a series of graphic novels, you know that the minds making such a movie will be inventive and unorthodox, and this shows heavily in the end result, which feels remarkably fresh, almost like something from the early Wachowski brothers (or Speed Racer, perhaps).

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B-, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language C
This is a perfect straddler of the PG-13/R category, with all the minor swear words and even the major ones bleeped out for humorous effect, lots of stylized violence such as you might seen in martial arts video games, and more than enough sexuality (but no nudity) including a highly promiscuous gay character. It’s a great example of R-15, if only it existed.

Significant Content: C
On the one hand, the entire movie is justifying vulgarity by its very nature, including (older) teenage sex and homosexuality. But there are some fairly sophisticated themes here as well, including the idea that when we sleep with someone and the relationship ends, we turn them into “evil exes” who will be plagued by us and plague us for the rest of our lives. The other themes come in the final sequence when a profession of true love gains Scott his “Heart Sword” and a painful confession and subsequent resolution earns him the “Self-Respect Sword.” This isn’t a big message movie. It’s mostly campy fun.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
Not for thought value, but for being highly innovative and for successfully distilling massive amounts of current teen culture into a single movie. Also, this is a weird hybrid: big budget made to look like an indie movie.

Discussion Questions:
~Why do the evil exes want to stop Scott from dating Ramona? How do you feel about your exes dating others? How do they feel about you doing so? What point is being made about sexual relationships other than marriage?
~What is Ramona trying to say by changing her hair color so often? What is the movie trying to say, if anything?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Vegan police.
~The end fight.
Overall Grade: B+
If you enjoy campy though vulgar fun targeted to modern teens and post-teens, you’ll enjoy this. Think Zombieland with more Mario Brothers and less undead people.