If you can check your attachment to reality with your luggage as you board Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson, it is a fun ride - in a classic murder mystery style. If not, don't bother.

Neeson’s character, Bill Marks, is an Air Marshal on a flight that goes horribly wrong when a threat is made to the plane.  Instead of a straight-up hijacking, this is a mind game.  The villain sends texts threatening a death on board every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited in an account.  So much of the plot and so many of the details are completely implausible, but with a great cast, fast pacing, and focus on the mystery itself, I found it pretty easy to dismiss my disbelief and get caught up.  Along the way the hidden mystery villain casts suspicion on Marks, who ends up being the one accused of hijacking the plane.  This gives the mystery a heightened element of risk, turning CLUE into Chess and blocking Neeson’s moves at every advance.

There isn’t much original about the film. Stereotypes abound almost to the point of camp.  The brooding Neeson, the corrupt partner, the child traveling alone. There’s the busy but vulnerable traveling businesswoman, the cop, the Muslim doctor, the loud belligerent punk… Within the first few minutes of the film the plane is already in the air and much of the cast is already identified by easily recognizable types.  But that’s part of what makes it fun.  The butler, Colonel Mustard and the rest – categorizing people helps set up the expectations, which leads to suspicions when we start trying to figure out ‘whodunit.’
So what makes this rather mediocre B-movie enjoyable is the same thing that makes people host murder mystery dinners.  Can we figure it out before anyone else does? Are we picking up on all the clues? Who is hiding in plain sight? And Non-Stop does this part particularly well.  Every person on the plane is suspect at some point (well – maybe not the little kid). I have a nasty habit of predicting endings, and this one kept me guessing. 

For parents, this is a rather benign PG-13.  I know I’ve taken issue with the level of violence allowed in PG-13 lately.  Non-Stop does have action-related violence.  Just watch the trailers. Neeson is rough.  At one point, Neeson’s character kills a man in a fight (in an airplane bathroom! Not much is shown, it’s mostly sound effects due to the close quarters).  People die from poisoning, which is depicted as foaming at the mouth – disturbing, but not graphic. Guns are featured, mostly waved around and used for threatening, fired a little near the end.   Most upsetting for younger viewers would probably be the plane crash landing. Again, not graphic, just scary.  As for language, mild cursing throughout, with the obligatory one use of the F word.  I would not have a problem with my 14 year old seeing this movie – and maybe my 12 year old.  I don’t think my younger kids would be interested, and I think the general theme is frightening enough that I’d steer clear with them.

For couples, this is a viable option for a night out.  Enough action for the guys, enough story and mystery for the gals.  Roll-your-eyes-fun. And while Neeson and Julianne Moore are the big names headlining the film, when the head flight attendant stepped on the screen, my husband leaned over and whispered, “recognize her?” My response was “pfsshff, seriously? You have to ask?” Yes, my Downton friends, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) serves drinks rather than being served, as Nancy, the loyal and courageous flight attendant!  Very fun to see her in this role.
Frozen is not my favorite Disney movie.  There were many things I found just ok, and even downright annoying.  However, in the past couple of weeks, fellow bloggers of religious ilk have targeted the movie for its immoral messages or – ready for this? – its hidden gay agenda – of which parents need to beware.  I acknowledge their vigilance. I appreciate their courage.  I also think they are over-analyzing (this coming from a rabid-analyst) and not giving kids nearly enough credit.

Let’s start with the most reasonable arguments.  Some are taking issue with the transformation of Elsa from good girl Elsa into sexy Elsa as well as the lyrics to her anthem, “Let it Go.”  I admit, I’m uncomfortable with my girls singing this song over and over at the top of their lungs – which my husband and I discuss in a Podcast on the topic (Reinforcing the Positive Messages Disney Films Teach your Girls)

I happen to agree that the lyrics convey a message of rule breaking and rebellion right alongside those of self-discovery and empowerment.  However, I disagree that Disney was doing it subversively, advocating anything insidious, or trying to blur the lines between right and wrong.  There is a simultaneous moment of learning and growth going on, but she's also filled with fear, rage and rebellious angst.
Elsa is throwing a tantrum.  With a catchy song.
But that’s simplifying - it’s way more than a tantrum – Elsa is taking dangerous steps down the road toward becoming the villain.  Luckily, because of the faith, devotion and love of her sister, her journey toward isolation and cruelty is stopped.  WHICH IS THE STORY.  Instead of Frozen: How the Ice Witch Became Evil – we sort of get, Frozen: The Journey Towards Becoming a Scary Evil Witch and Back Again. 
The only thing I can think of to convey what I’m getting at is a Star Wars analogy: if Anakin Skywalker were singing as he turned into Darth Vader, it would be something along the lines of “Let it Go.” 

Giggles. I know. The visual of that happening makes me giddy.  I'm kind of ridiculous and now I want to write a Star Wars musical. But think about it for a minute. It works. Sort of. An extremely powerful, talented young adult rebelling, pushing limits, wreaking havoc, journey to the dark side, return to the light, in this case, because of his son. (Now I've got the "Tell your sister, you were right about me," line stuck in my head!)

But seriously.  Yes, Elsa’s song is powerful.  Anger feels powerful. Rebellion feels powerful.  Yes, for that moment she feels like she’s on top of the world.  She is finally using beautiful talents that have been misunderstood. And Yes, she is absolutely leaving the good girl and rules behind.  But the film does NOT advocate this as desirable behavior.  Unless you walk out of the movie right there, in which case, I can see your point.  

However, shortly after the song during which she truly discovers the wonder of her powers, her talents almost kill her sister then create a monster to throw them off a cliff!  Hello. Villain.  Just look at her eye makeup – she’s a villain ;) Only Maleficent rocks the eye shadow harder. 
Which brings me to her somewhat vampy look people are decrying.  Here’s my question I’d like to pose to the board for consideration: If Elsa had started off the movie as THE ICE WITCH, an evil antagonist, and she looked EXACTLY the same as she does in her ice castle scene, would anyone be pitching a fit? Just sayin’  
The big difference in this film is, again, that we’re seeing how a villain becomes a villain.  We’re getting the back story.  The transformation.  Not that a tight shiny dress and eye shadow are evil, but hopefully you get my point.  Besides, that dress is hardly groundbreaking in the revealing category when you consider Tinkerbell…

Ah, you say, but children are not sophisticated enough to see this.  They sing the song, they want to dress up like Elsa, they want to be like her so they’ll think it is ok to leave the “good girl” and “right and wrong” and “rules” behind like Elsa does.  To that I respond with two answers.
First, back to Star Wars – pretty sure that every kid ever has dressed up like Vader at some point or another.  Pretty sure society is still in tact.  Sometimes the villain is just cool.  And Elsa pulls herself back from becoming the villain.  She shows strength of character to stop that path.  Not too bad a morality lesson. 
Second, ASK THE CHILDREN!  They get it.  While us frantic adults run around the internet analyzing and policing, all it takes is a conversation to see that sometimes we’re the blind ones.  

Here’s my dinner conversation with my children:
Me: You keep singing that song.  What does it even mean?
Chloe: It’s about how Elsa has been locked up in her room and now she’s free to use her powers.
Me: So it’s a good song?
Chloe: Well, sort of – because she’s also running away and doing some bad things too.  So she only thinks she’s free. But then, she's not really bad because she's really just a lot scared. 
Me: She builds an Ice Castle though – that’s pretty cool.  And powerful.  Is that when she’s most powerful?
Lily: No.  She isn’t.  Because she can’t control it and she hurts people. She isn’t really powerful until she can control her powers at the end.  When she loves her sister she is most powerful.

Hello. Counterarguments anyone?
Out of the mouths of the children themselves.  “When she loves her sister she is most powerful.” What are kids getting out of this film? Let’s stop speculating and ASK THEM! As we advocated on the podcast, talking to our children about what they are ingesting from media is the best way to turn it into a positive parenting tool. 

As for the gay agenda in the film – I don’t really have much to say.  Except if you’re looking for anything, you’ll find it.  Magical power to create snow and freeze things is EXACTLY like being gay.  Why didn’t I see that?  (Where is my sarcasm font when I need it?) 
Also, the family gloried in her power UNTIL IT ALMOST KILLED SOMEONE.  Only then came the fear.  Um, wouldn’t you be afraid?  It’s not shaming, it’s protection.  And if it is a gay agenda, why make Elsa’s power dangerous. If the film is advocating, the figure representing the agenda would have a talent that is  universally positive and misunderstood, rather than one both dangerous and literally and figuratively “cold”.

The gay agenda argument made is simply based on how Elsa is encouraged to hide, and then finally “comes out.” I’m going to blow your mind right here, all of you who believe this.  Don’t watch the Little Mermaid. Gay agenda.  Being human= being gay. Ariel wants to be human but has to hide it, even from her father. His reaction to her human (gay) tendencies is entirely predictably violent. Only when he accepts that she IS human (gay) do we get the happy ending.  Oh wait, don’t watch Beauty and the Beast.  Gay agenda. The Beast hides away in his castle afraid of what others will think of him.  And when he finally does transform, that hair…totally gay.  Wait, wait…Tangled.  She’s shut away in a tower because of her special power that must be hidden from the world!  The only reason she doesn’t end up special in the end is because her power is destroyed by a man –OH NO – maybe we can watch that one because he fixes her and she is all better.  Hey, watch out for Merida – she doesn’t want to get married, and she rides horses and wields weapons… wow, SO gay agenda.  Don’t even get me started on Mulan. Oh, that Disney…

All I’m getting at here – facetiously, I admit, is that if you look for it, you can make whatever agenda you’re jonesin on fit whatever you’d like to demonize.

Or we can encourage positivity. 

Ask kids what they are learning.  Because I think they are more sophisticated than we are sometimes. If they pick up questionable messages, nip it in the bud. But pulling out the positive, the uplifting, and the wholesome teaches our children to do the same - with people and with the world around them. Even though, go ahead and attack me now, I thought Frozen was boring and not nearly the equal of Brave, I love that my girls got out of it that “when she loves her sister she is most powerful.”  I’m good with that.

Set in the future (2028), though with not much discernibly different from current life beyond the obvious robotics advancements and Samuel L. Jackson’s bizarrely retro fashion, the Robocop reboot attempts to tell a human story, make social and political commentary, AND be a violent-but-not-too-violent action film.  The villain of the film is corporate giant Omnicorp, run by Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) who capitalizes on the near fatal injury of Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) to create the robotic human hybrid - Robocop.

From the opening sequence with Samuel L. Jackson delivering a Glenn Beck-like diatribe on the safety of America, complete with a live TV robot execution of middle-eastern suicide bombers, including a young teen boy who is merely incidental, it is clear that this is a message film written at the level of a melodrama.  By mid movie I almost expected the audience to cheer the hero and call out “BOO” every time the villain appeared.  Taken a little farther it could have been campy or satirical, but as it is, it's just annoying and contradictory.

While shoving a political agenda down our throats, it's busy shooting everything that moves.  It demonizes corporate mega-giant 1%ers as amoral, profit driven, freedom hating, inhuman monsters – equating Omnicorp without any subtlety to criminals – yet the film itself is capitalizing on its market in such an immoral way it got under my skin.  The whole time I was watching, I couldn’t help but think about how my 14 year old son knew the movie was coming out before I did, and how much he wants to see it.
 The PG-13 rating and marketing have been SO focused on a teen boy audience.  Much has been said about how the violence has been sanitized from the original R rated Robocop.  Sanitized, yes, but in a disturbingly consequence-free way.  At one point, Robocop takes on a whole warehouse full of opponents with automatic weapons.  They specifically make mention of the caliber even.  Yet the moment of engagement, Robocop, and the camera view, switches to “heat vision,” which makes the whole thing look like a video game – removing the connection to the serious reality of the resulting deaths and injuries. 
The lack of blood-spatter may clear the way for the rating and opens the door for teen viewing, but what does it teach about what happens when you take a gun in hand?  Some have even compared the clean quality of the violence to blockbuster superhero films like Ironman.  I’d counter that there is something fundamentally different in the fantasy comic-book scenarios, which usually involve explosions of buildings or lasers and aliens, and real world guns and police officers. 
Important to note that I’m not categorically against gun movies.  Our love affair with the shoot-out runs deep, and I enjoy an action film probably more than the average girl. But juxtaposed with irresponsible marketing and coupled with a heavy-handed soapbox message, this film just falls flat.

The Robocop reboot does redeem itself somewhat by stacking up the acting heavyweights.  Given the over-the-top nature of the melodramatic script, it is amazing that Keaton and Kinnaman were able to pull off such relatable characters, but they totally do. And Gary Oldman is the highlight of the film as the conflicted doctor, torn between the prospect of scientific advancement of saving officer Murphy and his knowledge of how Robocop will be used, and what must happen to his humanity in order for him to function as necessary.  I’ve loved Oldman ever since Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead, and his performances remain stellar.

Summary: What to know if you want to see it
As an action-adventure junkie, my final verdict on Robocop is that it is mediocre.  The visuals were good. Action sequences were like video games, especially at the end.  His motorcycle is awesome!  Mainly, I just found it tedious how soapboxy the whole thing was.  Give me mindless fun with a sub-standard plot before you preach to me about politics and get all didactic.  It can be handled well, with satire or with wit – but Robocop opts for the dumptruck method of delivery.  I got so sick of Samuel L. Jackson I wanted to slap him. However, if you go in prepared to overlook the posturing, you can enjoy the CG and the action.

As a mom, I give Robocop a total thumbs-down.  It is deceitful to give it a PG-13 rating.  On top of the violence, there is much that is just plain disturbing. In a scene where Alex Murphy asks to be shown how much of his human self is left, the CG team shows off by removing the suit, leaving a few dangling body parts, functioning lungs, exposed brain… you get the picture.  My stomach did a flip, and I’m pretty solid.  An opening scene shows a middle eastern child (maybe 11 years old), rushing to defend his father from a robot, is blown up in close-up. I know that they took blood spatter out to get this rating, but it is NOT deserved. I will not be allowing my children to see this film.  It is violent at its core.  For further parental advisory, there is moderate bad language for the rating and an intimate scene when Alex Murphy takes his wife’s shirt off.  She is wearing a bra the whole time. 

You and I are bound to be friends if, when I say, "Sunday night," you immediately envision gorgeous Edwardian era gowns, chandeliers, valets and footmen.  Even with the Olympics at stake, Downton takes precedence.  Did you watch last night? I mean, seriously, what is Rose going to do next? And could you BELIEVE that Edith almost went through with it?!  And come on - as if we can't see what's going to happen with Mary. 

I desperately need someone with whom to discuss, gasp, giggle and conjecture.  And share favorite Dowager Duchess quotes!

I was recently asked to be a Downton "expert" guest host on my husband's popular podcast, The Shrink Show, when they covered "The Psychology of Downton Abbey." (click link for show). We covered everything from the time period, to appeal of the show - including the touchy feminism topic.  I was humiliated after recording to realize a huge flub on my part, when one of the show's hosts got me confused about a character name.  How embarrassing!
One thing I claimed on the podcast was that among the biggest draws of watching are the opulent visuals.  The costuming, the Abbey (Highclere Castle, if we're being accurate), the hair - ooo la la! Eye candy! Admit it - part of the reason we love to watch is to see what Lady Mary is going to wear to dinner! Ralph Lauren himself was so inspired that his Fall 2012 line was introduced to the Downton theme music. And since my youngest tells everyone that I'm a "Designer," I'll admit I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to achieve Downton inspired Easter Dresses for my girls this year.  I sure wish they'd show more children.

Once we're all sitting around in our Edwardian attire, we realize how pedestrian our surroundings are, eh? At the House of Antique Hardware Blog, they've come up with a Downton Abbey collection to bring the decadent decor home.  I love this line from the blog; "hardware is like jewelry for the home," which, if it's true, no one knows jewelry like Downton! 

Now, typically, my decorating style is decidedly not Highclere worthy, but so many of these pieces are charming!  I'm looking around my house wondering where in the world I could possibly put a chandelier.  Just a few episodes makes it pretty clear that everyone needs a chandelier, right? And a white tie.

What does it say about me that I think the downstairs collection fits best in my house?  And how cool is that bell?

So, who wants to join my Downton club? We can hang a chandelier.

*This is a sponsored post, but all opinions expressed are my own.

We are LEGO nerds. My children asked almost exclusively for Lego sets for Christmas.  We were one of those hordes of the insane who braved the opening of Salt Lake's first Lego store a few months ago just to step inside the magical place.  However, I was not looking forward to the upcoming movie.  I just wasn't hip to wasting two hours of my life watching what the previews made me think was going to be about on par with TV cartoons. What we do for our kids, right?
But how could I think that Lego would disappoint? I was so wrong in my expectations of this film.  It is funny, fast-paced, and surprisingly touching and thought-provoking. Even watching it in 3D, which I usually hate, didn't bother me because I was having so much fun.
I adore great comedy, and have been sadly disappointed by the lack of comedic fare from the film industry lately (since apparently throwing together every form of expletive, scatalogical gag and sexual innuendo known to existence is enough to leave audiences in stitches).  Can you imagine my shock in finding myself laughing out loud more in this 'kids' movie' than I have in a very long time at any show? Pop culture references, sight gags, satire and just outright clever writing make this a great time from the minute the film starts in Emmet's apartment decorated with "Popular Band" posters, listening to the radio station that plays only the most popular song over and over again all day long.

Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt) is an everyman character who, through happenstance, is mistaken as a MasterBuilder and recruited to save the world from the evil Lord Business.  How is he recruited? By a pretty girl, of course.   Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is not only mysterious, dangerous and beautiful, but she is the first person to treat Emmet like he's worth noticing (until she doesn't - of course.)Emmet's journey of self discovery is silly, fraught with difficulty, but also quite touching.  He tries so hard to be perfect, and when he finds that none of that has helped him grow, that he doesn't know anything about himself beyond that he tries to be what everyone else wants, his struggle and heartache are so relatable. The film does an excellent job of connecting the characters to the audience - making their plight matter.  Yet this doesn't become a commentary on NOT obeying the rules.  It is decidedly anti-establishment, but the group of rule-breakers, the MasterBuilders who can ONLY do things their own way don't fare well in the film's treatment either.  In the end, balance is key.  Under the hilarious one-liners (Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, is our favorite) and bright animation, the lego movie delves quite deep, with subplots of romance, betrayal, self-worth, social constructs... 

But the true genius of the film, and I'm going to be careful not to spoil it, comes in recognizing that parents are the ones taking their kids to this movie.  I'm sitting there, enjoying and engaged in the story, but also doing that parenty-thing of deconstructing and liking the lessons being taught to my kids, who are eating it up, when suddenly there is a twist in the plot - an enormous game changer that re-focuses the film on the parents. And I admit, I got teary.  Don't judge me.  Just when you thought the movie was about self-worth and creativity, you suddenly realize it's about childhood and family and the beauty of familial connections. Whoa - didn't even see it coming! 
I'm not a fan of soapbox movies.  Especially ones targeted at kids. But the primary power of storytelling is to teach lessons.  The Lego Movie is filled with social commentary throughout the comedic gags, but the lessons taught to kids and parents alike aren't at all soapboxy or obnoxious.  They're done so well that I have to add my two thumbs up to all five of my kids' two thumbs up each (which was pretty predictable on their part).  This is one of those few kids' movies that parents can go see and ENJOY with their kids.  Mine tell everyone that "my mom was laughing louder than anyone else in the whole theater."  I'm  planning on taking my husband, who wasn't able to go with us, and see it again - just us adults! 

Be warned though - it sticks with you.  We quote and giggle over movie lines incessantly now. And though I thought that nothing would ever blow "Let it Go," out of our home's 24 hour a day repertoire, the catchy and satirical "Everything is Awesome," will likely be in my head permanently.  Great, just when I was disciplining myself out of my overuse of the word "awesome." 

Rated PG for mild action and rude humor. (here's a breakdown, if you're interested, but in my memory, they say 'dang', 'gosh' and 'butt' maybe once, and batman throws his batarang. There is some shooting of lego darts, and one extremely mild sexual innuendo)
I love shopping local.  Farmer's markets, local bookstores, wherever I can find it I like knowing I'm supporting my community, local economy and helping the environment by minimizing all that goes into shipping products. Plus I get more unique stuff - not the production line chain-store lineup. So I thought it was pretty cool when I found out there is a company devoted to all things Made in Utah.  It's called mercolocal, and their mission is helping us discover everything from mercolocal.com.
food and restaurants, to wedding planning, to sports and recreation and everything in between - often with deals and discounts.  I signed up to get updates about discounts, offers and area attractions.
One of their most fun offerings is the mercobox.  Every month a new mercobox is filled with goodies from featured local businesses.  I was lucky enough to get a February mercobox of my very own, and I was so excited to get my cute little box.
I didn't just get myself a box either - I got one to give to a reader!  Yay!  And you may do with it whatever you'd like, of course, but might I point out a Valentine's theme? Scents, chocolates, handmade soap stamped with the word LOVE... see where I'm going with this?

NS Minerals- Eyeshadow, blush sample, and coupon.  I'm not a make-up aficionado, but even I know that mineral makeup is great for your skin and is the best stuff around.  I'm excited to try this out.  I actually even watched tutorials on their website! ;)

Hatch Family Chocolates- OK, I am hard on chocolate.  I'm a chocolate snob. Time in France made me a snob when it comes to cheese, chocolate and bread.  So when I say these are delicious hand-dipped chocolates, you can take my word for it. (warning though, their website is serious food porn - careful visiting there when hungry). Making chocolates in Utah since 1917.

CrioBru Cocoa - looks delightful.  I don't have a coffee maker or french press to try it though, so out of luck.  It does say I can throw it in protein shakes - which ended up being YUMMY! Benefits of pure cocoa.  What I'm more excited about is the Recipe portion of their website - Creme Brule with fresh cocoa beans? Are you kidding me? Yes, please. How about cocoa marinated beef? Ever since I was a kid and the giant in Mickey and the beanstalk drooled over his "chocolate pot roast," I've wondered if that was really a thing.  Hmmmm, where will I start?

Inkling -these are scents made from essential oils, so basically perfume without the issues with sensitivities or allergies, more subtle, and with some of the oil benefits like energy and focus - depending on the mix. I'm loving "Tweed & Spice" for myself, which the website says is for the "sexy librarian" type. Hmmm. Really.  Both men's and women's scents.

Drainwig - I can't help but think "ick" every time I look at this thing.  But it gets awesome reviews everywhere, and I certainly could use help with the hair buildup in my shower.  It's just one of those things I don't ever want to think about, even though I'm impressed with the product.  You can watch their clip on the Today show on their website.

Beehive Soap & Body Care - handcrafted soap bar with "LOVE" printed on it.  Smells and feels lovely.

Numanna - $50 gift card toward food storage purchase from their website.

Ace Camera Rental - $5 gift card

I have a theory that this box is actually a social experiment.  Whatever objects intrigue a person first indicate something - a little glance into our motivations.  For example, I went straight for the chocolates.  A friend who came over was all about the make-up and scents. I felt guilty that if I were a devoted housekeeper the first thing that should have excited me was the drain wig. What will YOU open first?

Comment with your answer on Facebook for a chance to win. You must "like" Living in Lilliput on Facebook in order to qualify.  "Like" mercolocal for an extra entry! (just let me know in a comment) 

Good luck winning this fun mercobox! And how can the rest of you get your own? Check out their website (mercobox.com) and get one sent to you right away, or register to get a monthly box with local merchandise.  How awesome would that be?
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