Hello, WALL-E!

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Monday, June 30, 2008

WARNING: This review contains material that may spoil the movie for you. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now.

Robots in love… Sounds like the premise of a cheesy B movie from the fifties. But Disney / Pixar’s newest film “WALL-E” is one of the most delightful and heartwarming films of the summer. Once again Pixar Animation Studios has churned out a quality family film in the ranks of “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Cars.” Who ever thought that a love story between two robots could be so touching on such a human level? From the opening titles to the closing credits, all eyes are on the lonely trash compacter named WALL-E as he searches for meaning in his existence.

The movie opens by introducing our mechanical protagonist as he goes about the work of cleaning a desolate and deserted planet Earth. The last surviving Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class (WALL-E) unit, WALL-E lives alone with his pet cockroach. Over time, he develops a curious personality, sifting through rubble to find interesting knick-knacks. Among them is a videotape of the film “Hello, Dolly!” that introduces WALL-E to the concept of love and its expressions. Thus, when a female robot named EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) visits the planet, WALL-E is immediately star struck. What follows is a tale of excitement and wonder as WALL-E pursues EVE across the galaxy to gain her love.

What is most impressive about the film is the way that emotions are conveyed so plainly with so little dialogue. This story is simple, yet compelling and doesn’t need more dialogue to develop the characters. Sound engineer Ben Burtt (“Star Wars”) electronically constructed almost all of the robot chatter in the film. Aside from an assortment of beeps and blurps, a few human characters speak as well. Burtt’s work combined with the animation from Pixar creates a film that is worth seeing again and again.

Once again, the people at Pixar have displayed their seemingly endless creativity in “WALL-E.” They continue to confound expectations by continuing to make quality family films one after another. “WALL-E” is a heartwarming feature that surprises and awes. It is full of laughter, romance, and hope. This visually stunning tale transports you into the imagination where true love is cherished above all else… whether you’re a human or a robot.
RATING: 5 (out of 5)

My Traveling Brother Returns!

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, it's true. Not only has my oldest brother Jonathan returned from a week long trip through the Mojave Desert, but he has also returned to the blogosphere with a vengeance! Visit his new blog (Felix Culpa) at http://www.thegrovesblog.blogspot.com or just click on the his link under "Favorite Blogs."

Now, there is one issue I need to clear up before you visit his blog. As you can see, the web address for my blog is entitled "A Groves Blog," while the web address for Jonathan's blog is "THE Groves Blog." I just wanted to reassure my many readers that, despite my inferior title, my blog is still noticeably cooler than his blog. With that said, enjoy your reading...

Shyamalan's Just Not Happening Anymore

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WARNING: This review contains material that may spoil the movie for you. If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, stop reading now.

I settled into my seat and tried desperately to quell my excitement during the endless pre-movie ritual known as the previews. After each preview I expected the movie to start, only to be shown another preview. For fifteen minutes this ensued, until I could take it no longer. Finally, the lights dimmed a bit, the theatre grew quiet, and I leaned back in my chair to enjoy M. Night Shyamalan's newest thriller "The Happening."

Now, I wish the previews had never stopped.

"The Happening" suffers on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin. The magic, if you'd like to call it that, is gone. If you've seen some of Shyamalan's earlier films, ("Unbreakable," "Signs," "The Village") you can easily recognize the ethereal, mystical qualities. Shyamalan is known for leading his audience down paths of the unknown, where some questions are answered, but most are not until the very last instant. His previous films have also contained deep character studies that highlight the authenticity of his characters. In "Signs," Graham Hess' grief after the loss of his wife is so... real. When you watch the film, you understand Graham at a much deeper level because you relate to him. Not so in "The Happening," as Elliot Moore (played by Mark Wahlberg) doesn't deal with any major emotional issues at all in the film. With the exception of a few spats with his wife and the typical emotional distress found in disaster scenarios, this film fails to engender any emotional attachment from the audience.

Part of the problem lies in the acting, which is some of the worst I've seen in a summer blockbuster. An actor or actress in a Shyamalan movie is expected to react to supernatural events in a believable or coherent way. In reviewing Shyamalan’s previous movies, we would discover this to be true. But in "The Happening," something went wrong. Elliot Moore (Wahlberg) sounds like a child afraid of the dark. Often, his tone of voice borders more on whining than panic. And his wife, played by Zooey Deschanel, is just plain odd. Her character is as inconsistent as the changing winds that threaten to destroy her family.

Shyamalan's initial concept for the film was to answer this question: "What if nature turned against mankind?" An interesting question. However, his way of answering this question is both gruesome and non-suspenseful. It's like a bad mixture of "I Am Legend" and Spielberg's revamped "War of the Worlds." The film begins in Central Park, as some kind of chemical toxin is rewiring people's brains to kill themselves. We see these suicides throughout the movie, from a girl jabbing a hairpin in her neck, to construction workers leaping off buildings, to a man lying underneath a lawn mower. The gruesome sights are completely gratuitous and only produce disgust for the movie. M. Night Shyamalan's first R-rated movie? I wonder why. In addition, the cause of the manic-inducing toxin is correctly attributed to nature about thirty minutes into the film. There is no race to find out what's really happening, because we've already figured it out. It also feels like Shyamalan takes every opportunity to explain how it’s happening, why it’s happening, and how to escape "The Happening." There are no real twists and turns... just running and hiding in this film.

"The Happening" is also incredibly preachy. The only singular message of the movie I could find is, "You shouldn't pollute because it hurts the environment. After all, the environment might get angry and try to kill you, so watch out!" In a scene where Elliot and friends join up with some strangers to escape the toxin, the background clearly illustrates this message. The kooky strangers own a greenhouse, in contrast to the giant factory smokestack a few miles behind their house. In addition, the movie ends in hopelessness, as we see this event beginning to occur around the world with no feasible solution. You walk away from the movie saying, "Well, that's kind of depressing."

While Shyamalan presented early signs of becoming an unbreakable blockbuster director, in the same village as directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, my sixth sense is telling me that something peculiar has been happening in his more recent films, beginning with "Lady in the Water." (Read that sentence again...) If "Lady in the Water" signaled the director's departure from what made his previous movies great, then "The Happening" confirms that the old M. Night Shyamalan is gone for good. Apparently, his next movie will be a live-action version of a Nickelodeon cartoon show.

What is happening to M. Night Shyamalan? Maybe he breathed in some of that chemical toxin because it looks like he’s committing career suicide.
RATING: 1 (out of 5)

New Look... Same Blog

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008

Hello, everyone out there in Internet Land! It is I, Andrew Groves, and as you can see, I've restructured my blog slightly. I hope that you enjoy the new look and continue to visit my site regularly! Here's a sneak peak at what else is coming to my blog...

  • For the next twenty weeks, I will be reviewing my top twenty favorite albums of all time. I'll start with number twenty, and each week I'll count down to my favorite album ever!
  • Continued reviews of summer movies including Prince Caspian, The Happening, and more!
  • My various ramblings and lessons I've learned from the Almighty.

If I Were the Devil

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008

As I was sitting at my desk today, a song by Andy Gullahorn was stuck in my head. So, I decided to share it with all of you out there in internet-land. Following are the lyrics to "If I Were" by Andy Gullahorn. Humorously, this song describes how the singer (Andy) would behave if he were the devil; ironically, the description Andy gives accurately depicts the real devil and his character.

"If I Were"
By Andy Gullahorn
If I were the devil, I wouldn't wear red
I wouldn't have horns or a pitchfork
I wouldn't breathe fire 'cause it might give me away

But if I were the devil, you'd never know
I'd befriend you quick and corrupt you slow
So you don't notice until it's far too late

If I were the devil... if I were the devil...

If I were the devil, I'd spend all day
Lowering standards of what's okay
To think, to say, to watch on your TV

I'd break down the value of promises kept
And fade out truth till there's nothing left
Except gossip and lies popping up as thick as weeds

If I were the devil... if I were the devil...

I might not be as foreign as you think
'Cause I wouldn't always show my evil side
I've got the time and patience just to wait
And steal your soul just one sin at a time
Like I would if I were...

No, I'm not the devil, but if I was
I'd take God's people and split them up
To keep their minds off who they're called to be

So they're no longer fighting over living or dead
It's "Is it the body or just bread?"
While all the unfed die hungry on the street

If I were the devil... if I were the devil...

I'd make moms and dads who never stick around
And pain so bad you have to drink to drown
And guilt so I can kick you when you're down
And I would if I were...

If I were the devil, I wouldn't wear red
I wouldn't have horns or a pitchfork
I wouldn't breathe fire 'cause it might give me away

Fatal Deduction

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Friday, June 06, 2008

Gayle Roper's latest book, Fatal Deduction, provides a simple yet pleasurable experience to the average reader. Not quite as thrilleresque as the title suggests, this story is rooted more in who the characters are than the events surrounding the characters. When strange events begin to transpire around the main character Libby Keating, her true person is revealed and explained. The mystery of the crossword clues provides a framework by which Libby and the other characters can be fleshed out, allowing the reader to better understand the characters' decisions and actions.

Libby is an excellent example of a true Christian that struggles with past events and present decisions. So often in Christian literature, the Christian protagonist is presented as flawless or incorruptible. Not so in Fatal Deduction, as Libby's heart is in the right place, but her decisions are not always upright. Several times in the book, the reader hears Libby's thoughts about her self-centered sister, her impolite daughter, and her corrupt father and grandfather. During these thought processes, Libby often realizes that her thoughts are not God-honoring and prays for forgiveness. With the aid of her newfound Christian neighbor Drew Canfield, Libby is able to learn to forgive those who have wronged her just as her Heavenly Father forgave her.

All in all, Fatal Deduction is able to provide sound Biblical lessons in the form of a pulse-pounding, page-turning murder mystery. Gayle Roper weaves a story full of real-life characters, extraordinary plot twists, and moral guideposts that bring enjoyment to any reader.
RATING: 2.5 (out of 5)

If you'd like to learn more about Gayle Roper's new book, Fatal Deduction, visit the links below!